No Old Trafford doubts for Rhinos’ McDermott

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Leeds Rhinos coach Brian McDermott insists he has never had any concern that his side would be unable to successfully defend their Super League title.

A season that started back on the opening weekend of February ends tonight when the West Yorkshire club challenge Warrington Wolves for the crown once more.

The campaign has again been far from smooth, Leeds losing three Super League games in a row heading into Easter and suffering a sequence of just one win in five not long after.

Of course, they had finished fifth last year and still went on to win the Grand Final but McDermott was at pains to remind everyone they did not want to go through that circuitous route again.

As it happens, they have needed to replicate it but the ex-Bradford Bulls prop insisted: “I’ve never had doubts. There’s been difficult moments and periods where, if you are to get here, you have got to find some solutions and answers to either a loss or lack of form.

“Sometimes that’s just been down to injuries. We had a run early in the season when we lost a few games and that was down to the fact we had too many of our pivotal people missing.

“But doubt is a very strong word. I’d never doubt these players.”

Their recent form has been reassuringly commanding leading up to tonight’s encounter but reaching Old Trafford so heroically – having lost to Warrington in the Challenge Cup final – will not signal any semblance of success.

“At the moment I don’t feel we’ve achieved anything,” McDermott added.

“I don’t feel like saying that’ll do, that’s enough.

“You come so far and you want to get the job done.

“The final push is probably going to be the hardest one, it’ll be the toughest game of the year I should imagine, but it is only 80 minutes. Warrington are a very good team, a very strong team.

“But if we get just one more performance like we have done for the last month it should go a long way to getting the result we want.”

Meanwhile, South Sydney prop Luke Burgess, who won a Super League title with Leeds in 2009, has earned a first call-up to Steve McNamara’s England squad after Canterbury’s James Graham was banned for 12 games.

Bradford’s John Bateman – the England Academy captain chased by a host of leading clubs – has given the Bulls a huge boost by signing until the end of 2015.