Watkins has not played since suffering anterior cruciate ligament damage in Leeds’ Magic Weekend loss to Castleford last May.
He underwent a knee reconstruction in the summer, but is now close to full fitness and – speaking during Rhinos’ pre-season media afternoon at Emerald Headingley – Watkins said: “Hopefully I’ll be playing on Sunday.
“We’ll see how I go this week. I’ve been fully training the past couple of weeks and it has been good. I’ve had no issues so hopefully I can get out there and play a few minutes.”
Coach Dave Furner confirmed he plans to field his strongest-available line-up for this weekend’s pre-season derby. The game comes 13 days before Rhinos begin their Betfred Super League campaign away to Warrington Wolves.
“We are pretty confident he will be right, but it has not all been ticked off,” Furner said of Watkins who is preparing to begin his 12th season in Rhinos’ first-team squad.
“He hasn’t got the final tick, but he is certainly showing some good signs at training.
“Kallum at his best helps Leeds to be at their best.”
Furner will have an almost fully-fit squad to choose from.
Second-rower Carl Ablett has undergone surgery on an ankle and is not available, but the coach said there are no other serious injury concerns.
“He has had a bit of a cleanout,” Furner said of Ablett.
“He will be all right to go, but not for this weekend.”
Tigers will return from a week-long training camp in Lanzarote on Thursday and are also set to field a first-choice side.
Rhinos have another warm-up game at Coventry Bears on Friday when their academy team will be in action.