Challenge Cup: Our focus will be showing healthy respect – McDermott

Leeds coach Brian McDermott
Leeds coach Brian McDermott
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LEEDS RHINOS’ head coach Brian McDermott last night said he expects to rein in the Super League leader’s free-flowing style at Wembley.

The club have produced some stunning football this season as they continue plotting their course towards a first treble of top spot, Challenge Cup and Grand Final glory.

There has been an obvious emphasis on promoting the ball, especially through their willingness to offload, and out wide the likes of Ryan Hall, Kallum Watkins and Zak Hardaker have been unplayable at times.

Some observers believe Challenge Cup final opponents Hull KR – who finished 10th in the regular Super League rounds and have lost their last four games against Rhinos – could be annihilated in emphatic fashion.

However, McDermott, who lifted the cup with Leeds 12 months ago, said: “If you talked to anyone who played at Wembley they will all nod their heads as they read this...

“It seems that field is 100m wide, about 300m long and like you’re running on sponge all the time.

“I’m not sure that throwing the ball about and chasing your backside is the way to go on Saturday.

“Wembley’s no different to any game, though, in that kick-chase, solid defence and possession of the ball are some facets of the game you have to get in order.

“If we get a chance to maybe put a play on or two or have a bit of fun with the ball that will be a bonus but that won’t be our focus. Our focus has to be a healthy respect for Hull KR.”

The Leeds coach, leading them into his fourth Challenge Cup 
final having also won it as a player with Bradford Bulls in 2000, said: “I expect (scrum-half) Albert Kelly to play.

“If you give him some space everyone knows what he can do and likewise Kieran Dixon at full-back.

“They have a big set of forwards, too, that have been great at laying a platform during their Challenge Cup run and just recently in their Qualifiers as well.

“They have almost done the job for me as a coach as how to get a team-talk for a side who finished the regular rounds where they did.

“They have won all three Qualifiers and done a great job in beating Catalans, Wigan and Warrington in the Challenge Cup so they have to be respected.”

McDermott announced his side at the traditional ‘Walkabout’ yesterday and it was mainly as expected, with Adam Cuthbertson named at hooker to include an additional prop in the starting 13.

Kevin Sinfield will slot in at dummy-half and Rob Burrow will also operate there when he comes off the bench.

Mitch Achurch got the final bench spot ahead of the unfortunate Jimmy Keinhorst.

Achurch underwent surgery on a wrist injury after Rhinos’ Magic Weekend loss to Wigan Warriors at the end of May.

He returned in the Super 8s against Wigan two weeks ago, but was knocked out seconds after entering the action, though he impressed at Hull FC last Friday.

Keinhorst, who played in the 2012 Cup final, has featured in Rhinos’ last dozen games and McDermott admitted it was a “tough” call to leave him out.