'Not a fan of big speeches': Leeds Rhinos' Ash Handley on captaincy, top six hopes and World Cup ambitions

Winger Ash Handley has pledged to lead by his actions during an extended run as Leeds Rhinos’ on-field boss.

Handley is Rhinos’ vice-captain, but has led the team out during skipper Kruise Leeming’s layoff with a foot injury.

Saturday’s game at Catalans Dragons is Handley’s fourth successive match as captain and he stressed: “I am enjoying it.”

He said: “I don’t think that much changes, I like to have a say on stuff around the week and I have got a few people I speak to through the week about stuff we like and don’t like.

Ash Handley is tackled just short of the line by Wigan's Liam Marshall. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.

“I feel like it is a group effort getting people playing their best and keeping people in check.

“I like to let my actions do the talking on game day and I am enjoying taking it in my stride and learning each week.”

Of whether he is a big talker on the field, Handley said: “Not so much.

“I don’t think you need to talk for the sake of it.

Ash Handley leads Rhinos on to the field to face Wigan. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.

“I am not really a big fan of people talking a lot and then doing otherwise.

“I think you need to show people what you can do rather than tell them what you can do.

“I probably do more of my talking through the week at training, rather than on a game day.

“I don’t really feel the need to do that, unless it is something that really needs to be said.

Ash Handley celebrates one of his five-try haul in this month's win at Hull. Picture by Bruce Rollinson

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“If the group’s not right I will say something, but other than that I am not one for having big speeches before we go out.”

From a team perspective, today’s game is all about building on the 42-12 win over Wigan Warriors nine days ago, which Handley described as “quite a good performance”.

He said: “It was a good win and we played well across the board.

“We had a lot of people out and they had nearly a full side so we did well to put on a performance like that, but we don’t want to get too carried away.

“It’s only one win, we just need to keep building.

“Rohan [Smith, Rhinos’ coach] likes to take it week by week so that’s pretty much done now and we’ve moved on to Catalans.”

The French side are third in the table and on a five-game winning streak against Rhinos, who have not picked up any points in Perpignan since 2017.

It is Rhinos’ second trip to France in three weekends, following a 20-6 loss at Toulouse Olympique 14 days ago.

Handley said: “I don’t think it can be any hotter than it was in Toulouse, so we will be well prepped for that.

“We’re looking forward to it, to going over there and playing.

“We’ve done it a lot of years, going there and back in a day.

“It’s only like travelling down to London so we are happy to do that.”

Leeds have won three of their last four games, all those victories coming against teams who were in the top six at the time.

Having beaten second-placed Wigan last week, a win today would be another statement of intent.

“We’ve got to,” Handley said.

“It’s a tight battle for the play-offs now so we need to keep knocking them off and keep in the race.”

Handley has touched down 15 times in Super League this season and began round 21 as the competition’s joint-fifth highest try scorer.

He said: “I’ll just keep try and knocking them off.

“I suppose it’s the same mentality as it is for the team - week by week and try to be better than the week before and keep playing consistently well.”

Handley made his England debut last year, but has not been included in the squad for this autumn’s World Cup.

“I’d like to be involved,” Handley - who is due to become a father on August 23 - admitted

“But I have said it a thousand times, the only way I can get in that team is if I am playing well for Leeds so that is what I am going to focus on doing.”