Leeds Rhinos had to cancel Florida trip and Toronto friendly because of World Club game – Hetherington

Brian McDermott.
Brian McDermott.
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BETFRED SUPER League champions Leeds Rhinos were planning a pre-season game against Toronto Wolfpack in America, but have abandoned the idea due to the World Club Challenge.

Rhinos have visited Jacksonville, north Florida, five times for warm weather training, most recently in 2016 and have faced a variety of opposition there including South Sydney Rabbitohs, Salford Red Devils and the American national team, which is coached by Leeds boss Brian McDermott.

Originally the World Club Challenge against Melbourne was set to be held at Leeds United’s Elland Road, but it was switched to the Australian NRL champions’ AAMI Park after Storm refused to travel.

With Leeds due to begin their title defence at Warrington Wolves on February 1 and face Melbourne just 15 days later, plans for a pre-season camp were dropped and Rhinos will instead play all their trial games in this country.

Chief executive Gary Hetherington said: “We had a camp in Florida two years ago, on the back of winning the treble.

“Last year, after qualifying for the middle-eights, it was at a hostel in North Yorkshire! We did originally plan for a camp back in Florida in January with the intention of playing Toronto Wolfpack, but that got shelved because of the impending trip to Melbourne a few weeks later.”

Rhinos began their pre-season campaign with a 17-10 win at Wakefield Trinity on Boxing Day. Their full squad is likely to be in action in two weeks’ time when they send a team to National League One outfit Coventry Bears on Friday, January 19, before a Grand Final rematch at Castleford Tigers two days later.

McDermott, pictured right, is expected to field his first-choice side at the Jungle, but Leeds will also visit their dual-registration partner club Featherstone Rovers on Friday, January 26 and have two more trial games lined up after the Super League opener.

A Rhinos squad will travel to Keighley Cougars for Brendon Rawlins’ testimonial game on Sunday, February 4 and take on Hunslet five days later in the annual Harry Jepson OBE Memorial tie at the South Leeds Stadium.

“It will be a pretty focused period between now and the start of the season,” Hetherington said. “We have got all the players back [in training] now, though a few are still recovering from injuries and surgery. Keith Galloway (Achilles) is making good progress and Brett Ferres (knee) is another one who has had surgery and is working on his re-hab.”

Full-back Jack Walker is receiving treatment after suffering a hamstring problem against Wakefield.

Kallum Watkins. PIC: Bruce Rollinson

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