McGuire puts Headingley horror show to back of his mind

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Even Rio Ferdinand could have been forgiven for wondering who the current Super League champions were after Leeds Rhinos were thrashed 50-8 at home by Wigan Warriors.

The Manchester United defender was in the Headingley Carnegie crowd last month to support his Warriors team as they ruthlessly ran in nine tries to stun the 16,113 crowd.

In football terms, it was akin to the 6-1 Premier League defeat by Manchester City at Old Trafford.

But while Roberto Mancini’s team would eventually go on to be crowned champions, Leeds have picked themselves up and are still looking for silverware in both Super League and the Challenge Cup.

This evening, six weeks after that Headingley thumping, the Rhinos and Wigan meet again at Huddersfield’s Galpharm Stadium in the semi-finals of the Cup.

Not that Rhinos stalwart Danny McGuire believes he or his team-mates have anything to prove.

“I don’t think there’s a point to prove,” said McGuire, winner of five Grand Finals in his 11 years at Leeds and pictured trying to prevent Liam Farrell scoring for Wigan at Headingley.

“That game has been and gone. We took a bit of a battering and we have reflected on that.

“We didn’t play well and Wigan played really well that day. We got what we deserved.

“But this is a semi-final, a totally different game and a totally different competition.

“It is about the team that wants it most on the day. I sense a good feeling in our camp. I think we’re all hungry and excited and looking forward to a big challenge.

“Wigan are a brilliant team and they have been the most consistent team this year. They seem to be able to back it up week in and week out, but there might be an off-day round the corner and, hopefully, it might be this week when we play them,” added the 29-year-old, who insists he does not need to remember what happened at Headingley last month to gain extra motivation.

“Personally, it won’t be my motivation. It is the goal at the end of it, the Challenge Cup final and being involved in another massive game, which every player wants to do.

“Once we start playing on Saturday, the game six weeks ago will have no significance. It’s about the team that turns up on the day and performs the best and does all the little things correct, sticks to the game-plan the coaches have set out and doesn’t miss tackles; does everything right. Hopefully, we can do that.”

Since losing to Wigan, then Warrington Wolves, the Rhinos have turned things round with four straight wins.

“We needed to really,” admitted McGuire. “We lost to Wigan and Warrington on the bounce quite heavily and we knew we needed to start our season somewhere.

“We would have liked to be higher up the table and be playing better, but that’s how it’s worked out so far this year.

“We’ve had some good performances early in the year – Manly, Catalan, Warrington at home – when we have performed to a good standard.

“But it hasn’t been enough. We haven’t been consistent enough. Hopefully, we can find that form of a few months ago, when we were playing pretty well. The good signs have been defence the last couple of weeks. Last Friday night wasn’t a night for attacking rugby because of the conditions, but I thought we defended well against Hull, who have got some good players.

“The week before against London, we let in two tries, but I think defensively we stood a lot of pressure that day and that’s a good sign.

“That’s going to be the key on Saturday, our defence against Wigan’s attack, which is the best in the competition without a doubt.”

Not that McGuire cares much about being underdogs today, backing his trophy-laden squad to show the winning mentality which has helped fill the Headingley trophy room.

“I don’t really think too much about stuff like that (being underdogs) and I don’t think any of the lads do,” said the former East Leeds youngster.

“There’s no doubt we are going into the game as underdogs, but we’ve got plenty of experience in our team in big games and a lot of players who can perform when it matters, as we’ve shown over the last 10 years.

“I think our experience will be a good thing for us on Saturday, but we’ve got some new, hungry players who haven’t experienced those big games and are as hungry as all the other players to achieve, so, hopefully, they will be pushing us and we can show them the way.

“But Wigan have been involved in big games in recent years. Over the last two years, they’ve probably been the best team in the competition, so it’s going to be a big challenge for us. I think we should be excited about that.”