Leeds Rhinos’ under-19s will create history this afternoon when they face Catalans Dragons’ academy in a curtain-raiser to the Super League showdown between the clubs in Perpignan.
Rhinos’ youngsters were flying to the south of France alongside the senior team this morning and their coach Chris Plume said: “I am told it is the first time ever an English team has gone over there to play Catalans Dragons’ academy. We are really privileged to do that. We started this going last year when we went with Wigan to play a Catalans Select team. We spent 10 days over there and it was an experience a lot of our boys enjoyed. We’re looking forward to going back and playing a curtain-raiser and it should be good for them.”
Plume said the teenagers will benefit from rubbing shoulders with the first team. He added: “There will be separate travel arrangements over there because we have to be at the ground at different times, but they’ll be on the plane with the first team and they’ll eat together.
“They are going to learn from looking at how the senior players do things.”
It will be a long day, with the academy players meeting at Headingley at 6am. But Plume said: “We played London down there a couple of weeks ago and we set off at 6am, so that was good practice.
“Ben Jones will look after them physically and make sure they are hydrated and ready to go when they step off the plane. Once we land there’s about an hour – just chance to stretch their legs – before we set off to the ground and they have to have their game heads on.”