Leeds Rhinos: Watkins expects Warriors to be on top form

Kallum Watkins.
Kallum Watkins.
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STRONG-RUNNING CENTRE Kallum Watkins insists form will count for nothing when Leeds Rhinos face Wigan Warriors in Newcastle tonight.

Rhinos are aiming to go five points clear of second-placed St Helens, who play their game in hand against Warrington Wolves tomorrow.

The First Utility Super League leaders are on a two-game winning run, while third-placed Wigan were knocked out of the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup by Hull KR a fortnight ago and crashed 58-16 at Catalans Dragons last Saturday.

Those losses followed a run of five successive victories, including three clean sheets and Watkins doesn’t believe they make Wigan more dangerous.

“They are always a dangerous team anyway,” he stressed. “I don’t think last week will have any effect on them.

“The fact they are playing us is a big factor, they will want to put in a good performance and get themselves back into a bit more confidence and form.

“I don’t think we should look too much into how they have been playing.

“They will turn up for this game, so we’ve got to be at our best. We’ve prepared well through the week and we’re looking forward to what should be a cracking game.”

A Leeds win at St James’ Park would leave Wigan six points adrift, with only seven games to play before the competition splits into Super-8s and Qualifiers.

“They will be up for it,” Watkins warned. “They will be competing to the highest level, so we need to combat that and be at our best as well.

“Hopefully if we are best and we do everything right, we can get the result.”

Rhinos still have a healthy advantage at the top of the table, despite winning only one of their last four league matches.

After losses to Warrington Wolves and Widnes Vikings either side of a draw at Huddersfield Giants, they have won their last two, against Huddersfield in the Cup and Hull KR eight days ago.

Watkins reckons they are now over their mid-year blip. “That’s the way it is, it happens in a season,” he said of their dip in form.

“You are going to have a period when you’re not playing well, but we reacted well from that. We did well in the Cup and got a decent win last weekend.

“Preparing and building towards this game has been pretty good and we can take a lot of confidence out of that.”

Tonight’s first versus third clash closes the opening day of Super League’s Magic Weekend and a crowd of around 40,000 is expected in the stadium when the game kicks-off.

“It is always a special weekend,” Watkins said. “The fans turn out in numbers and make it a special event.

“You want to perform well and do well and playing against Wigan, you want to get a victory. We’re certainly looking forward to it.

“They’ve beaten us the last two times (at Magic), but we’re not looking at that. We’re just looking at what’s happening now.”

Rhinos’ successive wins have coincided with Watkins’ switch from the wing back into his specialist position, following Ryan Hall’s return from injury.

He said he’s happy to be back in the centre and added: “It’s where I like to play.

“Sometimes people get injured and you have to do a job. I am happy to show the right attitude and do that, but I’m glad to be back and hopefully I can start playing even better.”