MOTIVATIONAL SPEECHES won’t be needed in Leeds Rhinos’ changing room ahead of tomorrow’s crunch derby with Castleford Tigers.
Rhinos will go into their opening Easter fixture as First Utility Super League leaders, but boss Brian McDermott admitted he is “worried” about what in-form Tigers will throw at his team.
Castleford have won their last three home games and with a big crowd expected for the lunchtime kick-off, McDermott insisted his players don’t need his help to get fired up.
Leeds will turn their attentions back to match action tomorrow after the announcement of Kevin Sinfield’s departure to rugby union at the end of this season.
And McDermott said his team will need to be switched on from the start against what he regards as dangerous opposition.
McDermott admitted: “One of the things you think about is how worried are you about the opposition and how much do you think they will challenge you?
“It is an easy fixture in terms of motivation this week, because Cas are a good team and if we’re not on the money they have a chance of getting the spoils.
“We have been pushed all the way against Cas these last few years. The danger is people make mention of the players they’ve lost.
“They have still got a lot of quality in that team and they’ve still got a very good coach and coaching staff who challenged us with game plans and challenged us with how they played last year.
“I am sure that’s going to be the same again at their place. They are coming out of their blocks, that’s the big thing.
“Their enthusiasm and the energy they are starting games with is a big part of how they get a grip of a game and that’s something we have got to be aware of.”
Rhinos have bounced back from their only defeat so far, at Warrington Wolves, with impressive victories against Wigan Warriors and Catalans Dragons.
McDermott reckons they are improving, but still have not reached their best form.
“You never get to a stage of the season when you say ‘that’ll do’,” he said.
“At the start of the year you are after a certain style and a certain type of defence.
“Midway through the year it starts to change because of the drier grounds and towards the back end you start adapting again.
“As a coach you never get to a stage where you think that’ll do, we are happy with where we are.
“But the last couple of games, we are looking more like. I thought last Saturday was a great performance, in retrospect, given all the challenges they had and given how they came out of the blocks.
“After half-time it was 13 minutes before we did anything significant that said we’re not going to let this one go away from us, because for the first 10 minutes of that half we didn’t touch the ball too much and they were on fire.
“To dig ourselves out of that hole I thought was a big call and showed a lot of knowledge of how to get back in a game and how to play with each other when the chips are down.
“That is encouraging. I thought some periods, defensively and especially offensively, we looked very good.
“There’s some pleasing aspects about that game, but that’s not to say there aren’t things to work on.
“We have still got some things we want to get right, which is good. You always want to improve and get better.”
As for the hostile atmosphere tomorrow, McDermott is not too concerned.
He said: “Every time we play the Hulls they hate us, Wakefield hate us, Castleford hate us – we have got a fair few of those.”
London Broncos, meanwhile, have confirmed the loan signing of 19-year-old Rhinos academy product Elliot Minchella for the rest of the season.
The loose-forward has made six Super League appearances after a Leeds debut in 2013.