ENGLAND WINGER Ryan Hall knows Leeds Rhinos will be the scalp every team wants to claim in the First Utility Qualifiers.
Last year’s treble winners are the biggest name in a middle-eights competition which also includes Super League rivals Salford Red Devils, Hull KR and Huddersfield Giants, alongside Kingstone Press Championship sides Leigh Centurions, London Broncos, Batley Bulldogs and Featherstone Rovers.
The top three after seven games will play in Super League next year, with the fourth-placed team at home to the side finishing fifth in a one-off shoot-out for the final spot.
“The teams who haven’t played us yet, the teams from the Championship, will be buzzing,” Hall predicted.
“They would love to write a headline that they have beaten Leeds and potentially sent the club into downfall, into the Championship.
“We don’t want to see those headlines, we are a professional group and we know we have to be on the ball 100 per cent.
“We can’t take our eye off the prize.”
Rhinos will go into the Qualifiers on a run of three straight wins and five from their final six games, including a 24-20 victory at Hull KR which sealed ninth spot on the Super League table and four home games in the middle-eights. Leeds were pushed all the way and Hall reckons that was a rehearsal for the final third of the campaign.
“We never do it easy and it [last week] was another example of that, but it was good preparation for what lies ahead,” he said. No game is going to be easy in the middle-eights. We have got seven games – or possibly eight – and we’ll have to fight really hard in all of them.
“They are going to go down to the wire so it was good preparation.”
The extra home fixture was a target for Leeds once they were confirmed in Super League’s bottom four.
“That is something we wanted to achieve,” Hall stressed.
“It doesn’t mean therefore we are now going to be safe, but it has given us a bit more of an advantage and the way the season has been, we need every advantage we can get.”
Rhinos have no game this weekend and Hall feels they will benefit from the break, despite their recent good run.
“At this time of the year you have people walking around with ice packs and it is always a case of nursing your injuries and getting through as best you can,” he said.
“Luckily we have got a week off to try and get back to almost 100 per cent, if we can.”
Meanwhile, Hall has never played against two of Leeds’ middle-eights opponents, Batley Bulldogs and Featherstone Rovers, and he insisted he is looking forward to the experience.
“Some players I started playing alongside in Leeds’ academy have moved on to the likes of Featherstone and Batley,” he said. “And it will be nice to see them again and play against them.
“It will be good to see how they have come on and catch up and to see how they are faring in their professional career.”