PLAYING AT Elland Road in two days’ time will help Leeds Rhinos prepare for next week’s World Club Challenge, coach Brian McDermott says.
Rhinos face Hull KR at Leeds United’s ground on Thursday in their final match before taking on Melbourne Storm at AAMI Park eight days later.
Elland Road is being used for two of Rhinos ‘home’ games this year during major building work at Emerald Headingley Stadium.
Rhinos officials are expecting a crowd of around 16,000 this week and 25,000 for the visit of Castleford Tigers on March 23.
Speaking during a press conference at Elland Road to promote Thursday’s game – being marketed as The Clash – McDermott said it will be a big occasion and exactly what Rhinos need ahead of their trip Down Under.
“It will be very good,” he predicted.
“The club has played here a couple of times in World Club Challenges so it’s not a new thing, but to play at a stadium like this in Leeds is pretty special for us.
“It gives us that big-game feeling before next week as well, so it’s a nice little build-up.”
Seventeen players and three backroom staff – including McDermott – will travel to Australia on Friday morning, with Jamie Jones-Buchanan and Tom Briscoe – for logistical reasons – following 24 hours later.
McDermott said he has “no real concern” over the effect the 10,500 mile trek will have on his players.
He said: “It is a dynamic we don’t have to deal with week in and week out, although we do travel to St Helens quite often and that’s a long journey!
“It is a dynamic we need to cater for, but we’ve got a lot of people at the club who do this and are very good at it.
“We’ve got an itinerary laid out and we know what we’re doing from start to finish, so all things being equal it should not knock us about too much.”
McDermott insisted: “I need to stress that I would travel 24,000 miles there – never mind there and back – if you get a chance of playing in a World Club Challenge in Australia, to go do something nobody’s done for 20-odd years.
“I don’t think it’s the worst thing in the world to board an airplane, fly to Australia, play a game of rugby league and come back again.
“There’s harder ways of earning a living.”
Meanwhile, Billy Slater – the Australia and Queensland full-back – has confirmed he will play in the World Club Challenge.
Speaking at a press conference to unveil Downer Group as naming right sponsor for next week’s game, Slater said: “I will be playing.
“Unless something happens in the next week I’ll be out there definitely.
“This is certainly a big game, it is at the start of the year which is a little bit rare, but at the end of the day it is a World Club Challenge.
“You’ve got to win the competition to play in it. It is a privilege to play in a game like this.”