LEEDS RHINOS will have their work cut out if big Willie Mason makes his Catalans Dragons debut against them tonight.
That’s the warning from Rhinos’ own game-breaking Australian prop Adam Cuthbertson, but he reckons Leeds have giant forwards themselves who can meet him head on.
The former Australian Test front-rower has been named in Catalans’ initial 19-man squad for the first time after joining them on a one-year deal earlier this month.
“He is a big thing,” Cuthbertson said. “He is a bit like Keith (Galloway, Rhinos’ ex-Wests Tigers prop) and he’s not an easy one to put down when he gets going.
“He is definitely a big task for us.”
The 35-year-old veteran has 290 NRL games under his belt as well as 24 Tests, including a notorious showdown with Great Britain in 2006 when he exchanged blows with Leeds legend Jamie Peacock after flooring Stuart Fielden.
Cuthbertson predicted: “He will be good for Catalans. I am not too sure what happened the last time he was in Super League.
“I know he ended up going to rugby union, but I’m not sure what the story was.
“But I think he will go all right in that team they’ve got at the moment.
“They’ve got a lot of players who are influenced by the NRL.
“He is a senior player and he has got a lot of experience, so he will be good to have in the team.”
Mason’s arrival strengthens an already big and aggressive Catalans pack and adds to the challenge facing injury-hit Rhinos.
Mitch Garbutt is beginning a two-game ban, but Mitch Achurch and Jordan Baldwinson are both in contention for Leeds and Cuthbertson expects big things from 6ft 5ins Irish international Anthony Mullally.
“Anthony had a good run last weekend [in the World Club Challenge],” Cuthbertson said.
“He didn’t get many minutes, but he is a humongous man, he hits hard and he is hard to stop.
“He will be good for us. We have got a good bit of depth in the forwards.
“Obviously we’ve got a few injuries at the moment, but I think Mitch [Achurch] is a good player and Josh Walters will get a bit more game time in the coming weeks.
“He’s great too. He gets better and better every time I see him play. He is great for us and I am sure he will fill the void.”
Rhinos won at Catalans early last season, but were well beaten there in the Super-8s.
Neither side has picked up a point this year and Cuthbertson said: “Their record is very good at home.
“They love playing in front of their own crowd, so it is definitely on us to turn up and turn the start of our season around.
“They are coming off the back of two losses as well, so it’ll be a good game. It is two decent teams just struggling to get a win in the first two weeks.
“We are both pretty hungry for a win and we’ll be raring to go.”
The Aussie front-rower reckons Rhinos can break their duck, despite being without eight members of their first team squad
“I am confident every time I go into a game,” he said.
“We have had decent prep’ and we have to execute it on the field. We showed in the first 40 last week what we can do, just unfortunately we didn’t take it through to the end of the game.
“If we keep that as our standard not only this week but for the rest of the season, I think we’ll be great.”