Leeds Rhinos 'look fantastic' says Warrington Wolves coach Daryl Powell ahead of huge Super League opener

Warrington Wolves coach Daryl Powell has given his assessment of the threat Leeds Rhinos will pose in Saturday's Betfred Super League round one clash at Headingley.

By Peter Smith
Friday, 11th February 2022, 12:25 pm

The game is Powell’s first competitive fixture in charge of Warrington, following his move from Castleford Tigers at the end of last year and he reckons his new side have their work cut out.

Leeds look fantastic, the squad they’ve got,” Powell said.

But he insisted: “We are looking forward to the challenge.”

David Fusitu'a is an outstanding recruit for Leeds, according to Daryl Powell. Picture by Matthew Merrick.

Rhinos held on for a six point win at HJ Stadium last year, but were pipped by a last-gasp drop goal from George Williams, on his Warrington debut, in the Headingley return.

That was Wolves’ first away win over Rhinos since 2018.

The hosts will be close to full-strength, but are without star stand-off Blake Austin, who joined them from Warrington in the off-season.

The Australian was suspended for one game following a yellow card in Tom Briscoe’s testimonial match last month, depriving Channel 4 viewers of a major storyline in the first Super League game to be shown on free-to-air television.

New Warrington coach Daryl Powell. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.

Powell, though, insisted his absence “won’t affect the way we go about things”.

He said: “Potentially it brings [Richie] Myler to half and [Jack] Walker to full-back, but I’d expect they are going to play the same way and they have got a pretty big, brutal pack.

“You know where the threats come from with Leeds and [David] Fusitu’a looks like he’s going to add a fair bit to them.

“He is a big handful of a thing.

Jack Walker could come in at full-back for Rhinos. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.

“We just need to make sure we look after ourselves and play the way we know we can.”

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Rhinos’ three other signings - winger Fusitu’a, scrum-half Aidan Sezer and second-rower James Bentley - are all included in the hosts’ initial 21-man squad.

Powell is especially wary of former NRL top try scorer Fusitu’a, but reckons Rhinos’ greatest strength is their youth system.

“When you are bringing young players through like Leeds are, you probably don’t need to recruit that much,” he stated.

“Fusitu’a is a great addition, a really big athletic player.

“The job for us is to find a strategy that nullifies that.

“They have got a good squad, but for me it is as much about the young players coming through as it is about anything else with Leeds.

“They do a wonderful job in that regard.”

Powell played for Rhinos from 1998-2000 - winning the Challenge Cup with them in his second season - and was coach between 2001-2003, laying the foundations for a title-winning campaign the following year.

After a successful spell in charge of Featherstone Rovers, he joined Tigers - who Warrington begin their home campaign against next week - in 2013 and was part of an intense rivalry between them and Rhinos.

He joked: “I’ve been set up a little bit - they’ve given me Leeds and Cas the first two games!

“It is just a great opportunity, one for rugby league and secondly for Warrington as a team to start this season off in a great way, in different surroundings, on a different platform tv-wise.”

Powell took charge of Warrington at the start of pre-season in November and has moved home from West Yorkshire to Cheshire.

After nine seasons at Tigers, it was a wrench, but he said: “I’ve only been at the stadium a couple of times, so I need to get used to that.

“That’s a bit different, but in terms of the area and the club itself, I feel right at home there.

“They have made me really welcome and we’re enjoying it.”

Former Tigers players Peter Mata’utia and Oliver Holmes, who both followed Powell across the Pennines at the end of last season, have been named in Warrington’s initial 21-man squad.

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