Leeds Rhinos: End-of-season switch for World Club Challenge is worth a look says Mac

LEEDS RHINOS coach Brian McDermott has called for a change to the World Club Challenge.

Thursday, 18th February 2016, 4:00 pm
Leeds Rhinos head coach Brian McDermott.

McDermott would like to see the game staged at the end of the season, rather than its current slot early in the year.

Three of Rhinos’ most influential players, Kevin Sinfield, Jamie Peacock and Kylie Leuluai, have left the playing staff since last October’s Old Trafford victory over Wigan Warriors.

Leeds have also picked up a series of injuries in their opening two First Utility Super League matches, so the team facing North Queensland Cowboys on Sunday will be far different to the one which won the European title.

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“I’d like to see this competition played at the end of the season,” McDermott said.

“Maybe 10 days or two weeks later it would be pretty much the same team that won the Grand Final and with the same coach as well, as quite often that changes.

“It’s a true reflection of the club, but not necessarily the team that won the Grand Final having it at this time of year.

“We’ll have that many changes now due to injuries and retirements, though it’s a positive for our club and for our juniors as they get a chance.”

Staging the world title match at the end of the domestic campaign would have an impact on international fixtures which are played in the autumn and also eat into pre-season.

Rhinos were in a similar situation last year when they took on the New Zealand tourists in a Challenge match two weeks after their title triumph.

The champions – without their England representatives and several other first-choice players due to injury – produced a stirring performance in defeat.

And McDermott conceded: “I understand logistically it would be tough to move it to the end of the year, with international matches and when the NRL season finishes compared to us. This is probably an easier version for everybody as it’s more straight forward, but that would be my preference.”

Rhinos are bidding for a record fourth world title success, after winning the competition in 2005, 2008 and 2012. North Queensland, who beat Leeds twice in the World Club Championship in 1997, are in the big game for the first time.

McDermott reckons Sunday night’s clash – Cowboys’ first competitive game of the year – will be a tense affair.

But he is confident Rhinos will be ready for the challenge, despite defeats in their first two league matches including a 56-12 drubbing at Widnes Vikings five days ago. McDermott predicted: “I think there’ll be nerves on both sides.”

“I don’t care how many of these games you’ve played in, or finals, you’ve still got to get up on the day.

“I often say before finals it’s the preparation where you get the advantage.

“As soon as the whistle blows you’ve got to come up with the goods and our prep’ is crazy as we have to play two Super League rounds first.

“I know North Queensland played last week in Australia, but I don’t think they have a raft of preparation under their belt either.

“The prep’s been different so I just think it’s about nailing game day.”

The World Club Series kicks off tonight when St Helens take on Sydney Roosters.

Wigan Warriors meet Brisbane Broncos on Saturday in a match-up between last year’s beaten Grand Finalists.