Leeds Rhinos: Harlequins clash is big one for McDermott

Brian McDermott.
Brian McDermott.
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The visit of Harlequins will be an emotional occasion for Leeds Rhinos boss Brian McDermott.

It will be McDermott’s home debut as Rhinos’ head coach – and sees him go up against his former club for the first time.

Tonight’s combatants – plus Castleford Tigers – are the only teams with a 100 per cent winning record going into Engage Super League round three.

With Tigers not in action this weekend, the victors will go clear at the top of the early-season table.

McDermott joined Quins as team boss in 2006, after two years as assistant-coach at Leeds and worked with most of their current side.

“I want to make it clear our preparation won’t change one iota,” said McDermott. “It’s obvious I used to coach the (opposition) team and I haven’t mentioned that in preparation.

“But emotionally I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a bit different. I invested four years of my life there and a lot of effort and energy went into that club.

“I am really pleased they have got a bit of momentum behind them and I hope that continues.

“Emotionally, it will be a little bit different this week to when we play any other team, but that’s where it ends.

“Practically, what we do on the field and in preparation won’t change at all.”

McDermott is a passionate believer in the importance of a strong London team and he is delighted they have started the season so well, but not surprised.

“If you look at the games they have played, a lot of ball goes through (Luke) Gale and (Chad) Randall’s hands and (Luke) Dorn’s a threat,” he observed.

“They have always had the calibre and if you can keep (Danny) Ward and (Rob) Purdham on the field – and Chris Bailey looks like he has been a great addition – they are a threat to anybody.

“Over the last three or four years there hasn’t been a side they have not beaten and they have done it in style, as long as they can keep their main influential people on the field.

“It’s when they are not there that the depth in their squad gets challenged.”

Rhinos began with a tight 32-28 win over Bradford Bulls, before turning on the style to out-play Hull 32-18 a week ago.

“In terms of performance, I thought last week was a good one,” McDermott said.

“It was certainly a step up from the week before.

“We were more consistent throughout the game and defensively we were very strong.

“We stayed strong towards the back end of the game and that’s encouraging, because that’s something we talked about and worked on.

“We have created our own bit of momentum and we want to continue that.”

Quins coach Rob Powell said: “The challenge for us is to test ourselves against a top side, away from home.

“The game will be a real test of our defence, when we come up against a strong, potent Leeds attack.”

Tonight’s capacity has been restricted to 16,000 and the Western Terrace will be closed, due to construction work on a new permanent big screen at that end of the Headingley Carnegie stadium.

Meanwhile, Rhinos will today begin a search to identify their greatest 13 players – to be commemorated in a Hall of Fame housed in the rebuilt South Stand.

Candidates will be identified in each edition of the club’s match-day programme and fans will be asked to vote for their favourites.

A club heritage panel will then chose one player from each position.

Club President Harry Jepson said: “It is vital that a club like Leeds Rhinos finally gets a Hall of Fame that is accessible to all.

“There has been a benchmark criterion set of a minimum of 100 matches played for Leeds. which will immediately rule out some of the short- term overseas signings who have added so much colour and excitement to the ranks.

“It is going to be a very enjoyable if highly contentious and eagerly-debated process.”

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