Downcast Rhinos keen to throw themselves back into action

Leeds Rhinos coach Brian McDermott will not concern himself with where his side finishes in the table but, instead, simply expect a swift response to their Challenge Cup final disappointment tonight.

They host Salford City Reds just six days after losing against Warrington Wolves – a third consecutive Wembley defeat which understandably left his players downcast.

However, they still have the small matter of successfully defending their Super League crown to deal with.

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Leeds, of course, overcame last year’s Wembley heartache against Wigan to win their remaining six games of the season, creating history by winning the Grand Final from fifth place.

They are in the same spot now ahead of Salford’s visit and a trip to Huddersfield, but could finish as high as third or as low as sixth.

McDermott insisted: “I haven’t a preference, although playing at home would be nice.

“There’s no real strategy. We’ve just got to make sure that, for the next six games, we’re as good as we’ve been all year, if not better.

“Last year is history and we’re not hanging our hat on it, but we have that experience and it’s good to know that it can be done.

“We talked about this as a group, even before the season started, that we won’t be relying on what happened last year.

“We know we’ve got some work to do. We also know there’s a lot to play for.”

McDermott says the Leeds squad – many of whom have now endured five Challenge Cup final losses – have shown positive signs that they are ready to respond in the required manner with all of them putting their hand up to play against the City Reds.

“I won’t tell you we’re all bouncing at the moment because we’re not but at the same time we’re ready to play,” he said.

“There will be a few changes – we’re still waiting on one or two blokes – but every single one of those who played at Wembley have said ‘don’t rest me’. Everyone is ready for the challenges ahead and that bodes well for what we can do over the next few weeks.”

England second-row Jamie Jones-Buchanan is also, remarkably, fit to resume despite enduring a painful knee injury at Wembley.

“It’s amazing what physios can do nowadays,” said McDermott.

“They pushed the cartilage back in and he’s ready to go.”

Second-rows Chris Clarkson and Weller Hauraki are both looking to get some minutes under their belt after missing out at Wembley and they could freshen up the Rhinos.

Salford, meanwhile, have no hopes of breaking into the top eight, but remain a dangerous side to contend with.

With attacking players of Luke Patten and Daniel Holdsworth’s ilk, they have caused numerous teams problems this term despite now languishing down in 11th spot.

Warrington, Catalan and Hull FC have all fallen by their sword.

Phil Veivers’s side throw no caution to the wind with their bold enterprise, although they are currently on a five-match losing run since last winning at Hull KR on July 8.

McDermott admitted: “Salford are a very challenging team.

“It’s not just about completions with them; they don’t mind using the ball and attacking you. They will provide a stern test.”

n Bradford Bulls’ stand-off Kyle Briggs has rejoined Featherstone Rovers on a two-year deal.

He played for the Championship leaders in 2010 before moving to Odsal and returned to Featherstone earlier this year, initially on loan.