ENGLAND CENTRE Kallum Watkins expects Leeds Rhinos’ attack to improve this year.
But the No 3 says Rhinos have to learn not to try and score on every play. Leeds had the meanest defence in the top-flight last year, but only the seventh most potent attack, despite fielding arguably the competition’s strongest back division.
Rhinos scored 154 points in their four pre-season games against professional opposition, though the only time they faced a Super League side was on Boxing Day, when Wakefield Trinity Wildcats were beaten 50-28.
The two games involving the most senior players, against Wakefield and Bradford, saw dazzling handling at times, but also a series of unnecessary passes which went to ground.
Watkins, who touched down 13 times in 30 appearances last year, admitted: “It is something we have been working on, being a little bit more expansive.
“Hopefully we (the outside-backs) will get more opportunities to get the ball, but that is hard work and you’ve got to find that balance between when you’re under pressure and when you’re not. That’s what we’ve got to work on, keeping that in the balance and knowing when to play and when not to.
“With the experienced guys we have, we have got every confidence we can do that.”
Aged 23, Watkins is into his eighth season in Rhinos’ senior side. He began pre-season training at the end of last month, after England duty in last autumn’s Four Nations, but said he’s rested and ready for Sunday’s round one trip to Hull KR.
“I had a long year but I’ve had a good break, I got back into training just before we went on camp and I’m feeling good,” Watkins stated. “There’s always room to improve. There’s a lot to work on personally, but I look at it as a big team thing.
“At the back end of last year we didn’t do well enough and we got punished for that. But most of the guys have been in since November and they’ve worked really hard in pre-season, as we saw when me, Hally (Ryan Hall) and Zak (Hardaker) got back (from England duty).
“The camp in Florida was good, we got the training we wanted out of it and we’re certainly looking forward to what will be a tough season, but the challenge is there for us.”
Of his aims for the new campaign, Watkins said: “I am just going to take it week-by-week at this stage. I will set some goals once we’ve started playing, but I just want to keep training, work hard, keep fit and stay strong and powerful. I want to continue to improve my skills and basically keep developing and learning as a player.
“I feel like I have been here a long time, but there’s still plenty of things to do and plenty of challenges ahead. That is something I am working towards.”