Leeds Rhinos: Fit-again Clarkson in bid to prove true value

Chris Clarkson, seen in action for Rhinos last year, will face them this Sunday for widnes, where he is on a year-long loan.
Chris Clarkson, seen in action for Rhinos last year, will face them this Sunday for widnes, where he is on a year-long loan.
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on-loan widnes Vikings forward Chris Clarkson has timed his return from injury just right.

Clarkson made his comeback from a broken thumb as a substitute in last Sunday’s last-gasp defeat at Warrington Wolves and is in contention for a place in the starting line-up at home to his parent club Leeds Rhinos on Sunday.

A Grand Final and World Club Challenge winner with Rhinos, Clarkson, 25, joined Widnes on a year-long deal in the off-season, in a bid for regular game time.

He was restricted to just six starts and 11 substitute appearances for Rhinos last term, but had already become a key member of Widnes’ side when injury struck.

“I missed five games, which was frustrating,” Clarkson said.

“Watching the team from the sidelines when I came here to play rugby was pretty tough, but I worked hard to get back and get fit and I was straight back in last week.”

Despite the injury setback, Clarkson insisted he is getting what he wanted out of his move to Cheshire.

“I came off the bench last week, but I still played 55-60 minutes,” he said.

“Before that I played every game, for more or less 80 minutes.

“I was really enjoying my rugby and getting a lot of confidence back. Now I need to start again and kick-on.”

Clarkson is contracted to Leeds for 2016 and admitted Sunday is a chance to remind Rhinos’ coaching staff what he can do.

He said: “It is an opportunity to impress against Leeds.

“They will be reviewing the game and it will be good for me to put in a really good performance and impress the coaches, but I played there for five years previously, so they already know how I can play.

“I won’t be doing that much different to what they know already.”

Clarkson – who is a former housemate of Leeds forwards Stevie Ward and Mitch Achurch – played against Rhinos at Headingley in round two, but he added: “It will be strange playing against some of my best mates.

“I am looking forward to it, I have just got to treat it like any other game and play as well as I can.”

Sunday’s game is a big one for both teams.

Leeds are three points clear at the top of First Utility Super League, but have not won in their last two matches. Widnes are 11th, but victory could see them climb into the top-eight, depending on results elsewhere.

“We haven’t got any points away, but our home form is good,” Clarkson said.

“We’ve got four wins and a draw out of six home games, so our home form is what we are hanging our hat on.

“Leeds will be coming out all guns firing, as they do every game.

“They are going really well this year, they’re top of the table and the team to beat.

“They are coming off the back of a loss and a draw so they will be looking to bounce back, but hopefully we can stop them getting the two points.”

Leeds Rhinos' Stevie Ward.

Injury fears are put to bed by Leeds Rhinos’ Stevie Ward