WITH eight Grand Final wins under his belt, Hull KR’s Danny McGuire knows all about pressure and big-game mentality.
Clearly, the KCOM Lightstream Stadium this evening may be a bit different to his customary place at Old Trafford around this time of year but the importance of Rovers’ fixture with London Broncos is just as tangible.
Last year, the former Great Britain stand-off was guiding the Leeds Rhinos side he captained to yet another Super League title.
Now, McGuire’s only target is Super League survival.
If the Robins can beat their Championship opponents it will certainly be a significant step in the right direction towards that principal aim.
“It will be tough,” insisted the 35-year-old, knowing ambitious London have already taken one top-flight scalp at Widnes Vikings.
“They got a good win over Toulouse last week and will come here confident.
“They gave us a good game in pre-season – there wasn’t much in that – and we need to go again and put ourselves in a good position.
“We’ve obviously got three wins from four but this is now a real crucial game for both teams. It is really, really important.
“We have to be as prepared as possible for what lies ahead.”
Danny Ward, the charismatic prop who was McGuire’s team-mate during Leeds’s maiden Grand Final win in 2004, is the man at the helm at London and he also played for Hull KR three years later.
“He’s done a great job with London,” admitted McGuire, Ward nominated for Championship Coach of the Year having only stepped up from assistant when Andrew Henderson left to be Warrington Wolves assistant last October.
“I enjoyed playing alongside Wardy back in the day.
“He was always a character, always joking but he’s obviously found his feet at London. From what I gather he’s pretty strict but likes to have some crack with the lads, too.
“He’s doing a great job and will look forward to coming up against him.”
Rovers, though, are coming to terms with the sobering news that a trio of their leading players have all been ruled out for the rest of the season after Sunday’s 38-24 success over Halifax.
In-form full-back Adam Quinlan could be missing for up to a full year given the severity of the anterior cruciate ligament injury he suffered while fellow Australian Justin Carney needs ankle surgery which effectively ends his career as he heads home at the end of the campaign.
Furthermore, industrious forward Lee Jewitt will undergo a shoulder operation next week that will sideline him until the start of 2019.
On Quinlan, McGuire admitted: “It’s sad, to be honest. He’s been brilliant. When you look at Ben Barba he’s probably been not just the best full-back but the best player in the comp and Quinny’s not far behind if we’re honest.
“He’s been class all year and is a great fella as well.
“It was really disappointing to see him with the brace on after the game and then hear the news that it is an ACL.
“Justin’s just come back, too, and is a real presence for us while with Lee missing as well now we’re definitely going to miss them at the back end of the year.
“It will make it tougher for us as a team but we have to pull together and get two wins from these next three games to make sure we’re in Super League.”
The return of James Donaldson, Ben Crooks and Danny Tickle will offset their loss but McGuire accepts his side must improve on what they did against part-timers Halifax.
Rovers swept into a 26-0 lead before being pegged back and London are not likely to be as forgiving.
“We did some really good stuff with the ball, especially the first 25 minutes, and scored some really good tries,” said McGuire.
“But it’s typical of what we’ve been like this year – we seemed to take the foot off the gas a little bit and you have to give credit to Halifax.
“They kept battling and showed a lot of spirit as well right to the end.
“If we’re honest, it was a disappointing last 40,50 minutes so there’s been a lot to work on,” he added.