Leeds Rhinos: JJB targets World Challenge return

Jamie Jones Buchanan takes a selfie with Kylie Leuluai and Kevin Sinfield.
Jamie Jones Buchanan takes a selfie with Kylie Leuluai and Kevin Sinfield.
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THE WORLD Club Championship showdown with North Queensland Cowboys has been targeted by Leeds Rhinos’ long-term casualty Jamie Jones-Buchanan.

The 34-year-old forward stressed he plans to play on next season after an injury-ravaged 2015.

And he is determined to be fit and firing for the NRL Grand Final winners’ visit to Headingley on February 21 next year.

Rhinos will be aiming for a fourth world title, after victories in 2005, 2008 and 2012.

Cowboys’ assistant-coach is David Furner, who played for Rhinos in their 2004 Grand Final win over Bradford Bulls.

“God-willing, I will be back in the team,” Jones-Buchanan said, scotching rumours he is set to hang up his boots.

“There is the World Club Challenge next year and looking forward, I see that as a big thing.

“That’s what I’ve set my sights on. You have always got to look forward and the big question is, what’s next?

“That’s the next big thing, the next big piece of silverware for me to win.

“That’s what I am going to work my behind off to get back fit and ready for and hopefully we can lift that trophy as well.”

A series of injuries restricted Jones-Buchanan to only 11 appearances this year. He has not played since rupturing a quad muscle in Rhinos’ Challenge Cup semi-final win over St Helens on July 31.

He remained part of the squad and was in the changing rooms after Saturday’s First Utility Super League Grand Final triumph. The injury which ended Jones-Buchanan’s season cost him a seventh Grand Final win and meant he watched from the sidelines as Rhinos also clinched the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup and league leaders’ shield.

But the forward stressed: “I got over that [missing the big games] a long time ago. The boys have kept me involved and I’d like to think I have played a part, even if it’s just a philosophical one.

“When Kev took me up at Wembley to lift the trophy with him, I think that’s symbolic of the spirit we’ve got.”

The former England back-rower also thanked his teammates and the club for not casting him adrift after he was ruled out for the final three months of the campaign.

“I told a bit of a daft story before the Grand Final, about Eskimos,” he said. “In their old culture, it was that tough and hard, once somebody became useless to the community – in particular the elderly – they used to put them on an iceberg and just push them off and let them sail out to sea, because it was better that they’d gone than be a detriment to the group.

“Other teams could have done that with me, metaphorically speaking, but the lads have kept me on and my payback will be making sure that spirit continues.”

Rhinos’ players have been given this week off, but will report back for training next week to begin preparations for their clash with New Zealand at Headingley on October 23.

“The mood is ecstatic,” Jones-Buchanan said of the feeling in the camp following the 22-20 victory over Wigan Warriors at Old Trafford.

“It is like they have reached the summit of Everest. No Leeds team has ever climbed that high and after the season they’ve had, it was the perfect ending.

“It was a destiny for the three players who are leaving, Kev [Sinfield], JP [Jamie Peacock] and Kylie {Leuluai]. They are going to leave a massive legacy that will stay with us.”

But Jones-Buchanan insisted there is life for Rhinos after their departing trio of legends.

“The way to follow this season is to pass it on to the next generation,” he stressed.

“You can’t replace those guys, but what you can do is inform people like Ashton Golding, Liam Sutcliffe, young Jordan Lilley. They are the next generation.

“In five or 10 years’ time they might be the next McGuire, Sinfield or Burrow.”