LEEDS Rhinos star Danny McGuire believes Hull FC could emerge as serious challengers for their Super League title.
The reigning champions head to KC Stadium tonight bidding to continue their iron-like grip over the Black and Whites who they have defeated on each of the last 11 occasions.
Four of those victories came last year alone given, as well as their Super League meetings, Leeds also knocked Hull out of the play-offs having already eliminated them from the Challenge Cup quarter-finals.
However, England scrum-half McGuire feels the 2012 version, under Australian coach Peter Gentle, is much improved and expects them to be soon contending for a maiden Grand Final success.
“Hull started the season really well and were up near the top of the league for the first seven or eight rounds,” he told the Yorkshire Post. “They’ve had a bit of a slump in the last few games but obviously had plenty of injuries particularly to key players.
“I think Super League now has at least five or six teams though that on their day are capable of maintaining a push for honours.
“Hull are definitely one of those. They strengthened in the off-season, had a lot of good players already and are looking to recruit more in the future as well.
“Obviously, they’ve got Gaz Ellis next season but I think they’ll be a tough team this year and will be there or thereabouts at the end,” he said.
McGuire is more interested in the present, however, and advancing Leeds’s own cause.
They know even a draw tonight will see them rise above their Yorkshire rivals in the table but, given Leeds have won four successive games, they are seeking that 12th victory over Hull to further their own aims.
“I’m not sure of Hull’s injury situation this week but we’ll go there again as we’ve approached every game this year – play at our best and find our form,” said McGuire.
“We believe we’ve got a good enough team to trouble anybody when we play to our potential.”
Leeds are strengthened by the return of England second-row Jamie Jones-Buchanan after nearly three months out with a knee injury.
Coach Brian McDermott said: “It’s great to get him back – he’s itching to go and we have missed him.”