LEEDS RHINOS are preparing to take on the best of Hull FC at Headingley tonight – despite the visitors’ emotionally-draining week.
Hull are facing a crucial Betfred Super-8s fixture just five days after retaining the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup with a sapping 18-14 win over Wigan Warriors.
But boss Lee Radford has named 14 of Hull’s Wembley team in his initial 19-man squad and Rhinos pack ace Adam Cuthbertson is expecting them to have all guns blazing.
Hull’s players spoke after the final of their determination to complete a Cup and league double and Cuthbertson reckons Leeds can’t expect an easy night – despite the after-effects of Hull’s celebrations and the short turnaround.
“It is an important game for them,” he warned.
“They are a great team – as we have seen this year – and they will be tough to beat if they get things right.”
Hull lost four of their five games after last year’s final and Rhinos also struggled to get back on track in the league following their Wembley wins in 2014 and 2015.
Rhinos went on to complete the treble two years ago, but their form suffered after Wembley and they were seconds away from being knocked off top spot in the Super-8s.
Cuthbertson admitted: “Celebrating hurt us.
“But Hull have done it back-to-back now and if there’s a team that can cope with a short turnaround like this it is Hull.
“They have done it once before and they will be better for that because they know what to expect.”
Rhinos are one win away from securing their place in the top four and victory tonight would open a five-point gap over third-placed Hull with just three games remaining before the play-offs.
“We are going to do everything we can to get the win,” Cuthbertson insisted.
“That will make things a bit more comfortable for us.
“We really want to get a home semi-final, that is very important come the back end of the year.”
Rhinos also have an opportunity to avenge their 43-24 Challenge Cup semi-final drubbing by Hull a month and two days ago.
“We are a much better team than we showed that day,” Cuthbertson stressed.
“We got our game plan wrong, but we have learned a lot from that experience.
“It still hurts. We didn’t want to be sitting around watching Hull lifting the trophy; we wanted to do it ourselves.
“I wouldn’t say it’s an incentive from losing that game, but we want to put in a big performance.
“We will have to play well to beat them. They’ve shown they know how to beat us, but up until that game we have been quite good against them.
“It is one of those; it is who is best-prepared, plays well on the day and has the right game plan to make sure of the win.”
In contrast to Hull, Rhinos have not played for 13 days and players were given time off last week.
“It has been very beneficial in terms of resting the body and getting it right to get on with the rest of the season,” Cuthbertson said.
“The time off has done me a world of good and I am feeling great going into the back end of the year, which is a massive positive.”