Leeds Rhinos: Watkins relishing clash with ‘battle-hardened’ Featherstone

Kallum Watkins.
Kallum Watkins.
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KALLUM WATKINS says the fact Featherstone Rovers are “battle-hardened” will make Leeds Rhinos’ first taste of the Qualifiers all the more interesting.

The Super League champions lock horns with the Championship part-timers in a week’s time as the Middle Eights gets underway - Leeds’ top-flight place at stake over the next two months.

Star-studded Rhinos will be huge favourites to prosper at Post Office Road especially as they have finally found some form winning five of their last six games to escape bottom and finish ninth.

However, Featherstone strung together their own winning sequence with four successive victories to time their run into the Championship top-four to perfection.

England centre Watkins said: “It’s huge for us going into the Qualifiers in form as most of the teams, especially those from the Championship, are coming up in good shape.

“Fev have won their last few games to get in there and have had that knockout mentality for a few weeks so that will give them plenty of confidence.

“That makes it even more interesting, everyone colliding together like this.

“It should be a huge battle between us and Fev and we’re certainly looking forward to the start of the Qualifiers.

“Some of our team-mates have been playing for them, too, and are part of that group fighting to get into Super League so there is plenty of respect going into this.

“We can’t be going there complacent.”

Watkins has only ever played friendlies and academy games at Post Office Road but is looking forward to what should be an electric atmosphere at their rivals’ traditional old ground.

“They’re a passionate club with some passionate fans,” he said.

“We saw that last weekend when they beat Bradford to get into the Qualifiers and saw how much it meant to them all.

“It was great to see and we know we’ll get the best out of them next Saturday.”

The 25-year-old will face a formidable opponent, too, in the shape of hard-hitting Samoan veteran Misi Taulapapa, a big hit in his first season at Featherstone with 14 tries in 21 outings.

“He’s a very good player and very exciting player for them,” said Watkins, about the ex-Cronulla Sharks and New Zealand Warriors star who also scored 70 tries in 168 games for Sheffield Eagles before moving north.

“He’s had some experience in the NRL, has been a huge asset for them this year and massively important these last few weeks to help them get through to these Qualifiers.”