CAPTAIN DANNY McGuire is calling for a “reaction” from Leeds Rhinos today – and insists they can cope without their England stars.
Rhinos face Catalans Dragons in Perpignan nine days after a shock 31-12 home loss to lowly Huddersfield Giants.
A tough task has been made harder by the absence of winger Ryan Hall and centre Kallum Watkins, who were playing for England against Samoa in Sydney today.
But McGuire says Rhinos are relishing the challenge and he is confident players who step in are up to the task.
“It was a disappointing result and performance last week,” McGuire admitted of the defeat which cost them the chance to go top of Betfred Super League.
“Over the previous couple of months we were heading in a good direction so it was a bit of a wake-up call, but it’s good we’ve got this game next.
“It’s a good challenge for us, everything that comes with the travel and the tough nature of the game over there.
“It is good for us, it will keep us on our toes and hopefully we’ll get a reaction from everybody.”
Watkins’ England call-up came when Leeds were already without centre Jimmy Keinhorst due to a hand injury, though Liam Sutcliffe could return today after missing three games with concussion.
“Getting Sutty back will be good for us, his utility value, but you probably don’t realise how much we are missing Jimmy, who can slot in anywhere in that back line,” McGuire said.
“Ash Handley has been doing a good job. He has just come back from a knee injury and 80 more minutes under his belt last week will be good for him.
“We’ll just make the best of it. Potentially Moony [Joel Moon] might have to move back to the centres this week so whoever gets picked is going to have to slot in and do a good job.
“Kal and Hally have been really good for us and I wish them all the best against Samoa, but we just have to focus on what we’re doing and make sure we go over there and get a result.”
Leeds have lost their last two games in Perpignan and McGuire reckons successive defeats – to Wigan Warriors and Wakefield Trinity – will make Catalans even more dangerous.
“That’s the challenge for us,” he added. “They are going to be desperate to get a win.
“They’ve been a bit up and down this season and where they are sitting in the table proves that.
“They have had some good performances and some not so good ones so we have to make sure we go there with a real determination.
“They have got some good players and some tricky players and some big forwards and we will need to be ready for it.
“It is a tough place to play. It is quite hostile the environment there and their fans make it known they don’t like you.
“It can be quite intimidating so our preparation has to be really good and we have to make sure we go into it with a real focus.”
Rhinos’ under-19s are also in action in Perpignan today, taking on Catalans in a curtain-raiser at 3.15pm local time (4.15pm BST).