FIT-AGAIN FORWARD Stevie Ward does not want to be wrapped in cotton wool this week.
Ward says he would rather play in Friday’s First Utility Super-8s fixture at Hull than be rested ahead of the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup final against Hull KR eight days later. The 21-year-old back-rower made his comeback after a five-game lay-off in last Friday’s win over Wigan Warriors.
He got through that with no ill-effects, but is keen to get more game time under his belt to boost his chances of being in the side for Wembley.
Coach Brian McDermott has yet to reveal whether he plans to rest anyone for this week’s game. A year ago a host of first-choice players were left out when Rhinos faced London Broncos a week before the Cup final.
With a four-point gap over second-placed Wigan, McDermott could afford not to risk some of his main men, but Ward is hoping for a chance to build on last week’s effort.
“I thought I went okay,” he said of his return from an ankle injury. “My defence was good, my attack could have been better, but it’s a stepping stone.
“It was just good to get out there and get playing and hopefully I can move on from that. It’s a big game this week and it’d be good to play in that.
“The two points would be good for us and it’d be good for me to keep ticking over. Wembley is a different thing completely, we’ve just got to prepare for this week and hopefully we’ll be prepared on the day for what Hull FC throw at us.”
Ward admitted he was “blowing a bit at the end” after playing the opening hour and final 10 minutes against Wigan.
“It was bound to happen because I haven’t done much running,” he said. “It was tough, but in a game against Wigan you’re always going to have the adrenaline there and the utmost from the lads around you, so it was good to get out there and get a good win with the lads and hopefully move on to this week and the rest of the season now.”
Despite his successful comeback, Ward is not taking a place in the Wembley team for granted. He said: “There’s no certainty of getting into the side with the people we’ve got.
“It just happens I’ve got into the side and it went well. Hopefully I put a performance in I can be proud of and Mac’s happy with.”
Ward missed out on the final last year, when Rhinos won the Challenge Cup for the first time since 1999. A Cup runner-up in 2012, he added: “If I am in the fold for Wembley it’s going to be good.
“Hopefully we can rejoice after the game and I can be part of it. It is tough missing out, I have been there once before as a young lad and hopefully I can get back there playing again.”