Leeds Rhinos v Huddersfield Giants: England stars on collision course

THEY are England colleagues, play the same position and have both turned 30 but Huddersfield Giants' winger Jermaine McGillvary has revealed he actually 'looks up' to Leeds Rhinos rival Ryan Hall.

Returning to form: 
Giants Jermaine McGillvary.
Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe
Returning to form: Giants Jermaine McGillvary. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

The two may have been team-mates in the World Cup final last December but on Friday night they face each other for the first time this season when the clubs meet at Headingley.

McGillvary was nominated for the ‘Golden Boot’ as the world’s best player last term but he says Hall is still one of the players he admires the most.

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“I am looking forward to that,” he said when asked about the prospect of facing the six-time Grand Final winner. “Hally’s a great bloke. He is a player I look up to. Even though we’re the same age, I do look up to him.

“He’s been in that England team for a decade and all those tries he’s scored – and playing all the games he has – backing up each season, being really consistent, says plenty.

“I love playing against big names and big players and Hally’s definitely one of those. It should be a good match-up and, hopefully, I can get one over on him.”

Huddersfield are seeking an immediate response after the disappointment of Thursday’s Challenge Cup quarter-final home defeat to Catalans Dragons.

Giants, who had been on a four-game winning run after a wretched first half of this campaign, under-performed in the first home game under new Australian coach Simon Woolford, who is without Australian Jake Mamo for six weeks with a grade two medial ligament tear.

On the 20-6 loss, McGillvary conceded: “It was very stop and start with a lot of individual errors. We weren’t at our best.

“Our effort and defence was good but attack-wise we didn’t have many chances in their half and dropped the ball on first, second and third tackle. It wasn’t good enough. You’re not going to win any game with that many errors.”

The easy positive to seek out of it all is to say that Huddersfield – up to eighth after being bottom for weeks following Rick Stone’s sacking in March – can concentrate on avoiding the Qualifiers.

McGillvary admitted: “That is what’s happened but we were 80 minutes away from a semi-final.

“It is disappointing for us. There’s a couple of boys, like me… I’m 30 now and have never won anything. I’ve won a League Leaders’ and a Test series with England but nothing really major at club level.

“I’ve played a while now so it was really disappointing for me to get knocked out and it was frustrating.”

Defending champions Leeds have not had it easy either given they have lost their last three league matches to slip to sixth, Friday’s Challenge Cup defeat of Championship Leigh Centurions offering them some respite.

Huddersfield, who hope to sign Fiji international Akuila Uate for 2019, could move to within two points of them if they do win and McGillvary said: “It is a huge game. They’re struggling a bit but they’re still above us in the league.

“We’re not doing the greatest so it should be an evenly-matched game but, hopefully, we can grab the two points and keep climbing the table and cementing ourselves in the eight.

“It’s not going to be an easy task – Leeds at home no matter what form they will be in is always difficult.”

McGillvary will look to pull on the England jersey again against New Zealand in Denver on June 23 although he is playing catch-up in 2018.

He has made just nine appearances this term due to injuries but has played the last four games and seems to be getting back towards his best.

“I have had a stop-start season,” said McGillvary, who also has only gleaned two tries. “It’s been really frustrating after the good World Cup we’d had as a team. I came back (with a knee problem) and then got injured again with ankle ligaments and when I did come back from the ankle I was still feeling it.

“But I’m finally over that now and just trying to just build some sharpness and some form. Hopefully, I will progress and help the team climb the table.”

Huddersfield playmaker Danny Brough has had his two-match ban increased after contesting the charge.

The half-back was sin-binned for making dangerous contact on forward Kenny Edwards in the Giants’ 20-6 Challenge Cup quarter-final defeat by Catalans Dragons last Thursday and charged by the Rugby Football League’s match review panel with a grade B offence.

Huddersfield challenged the ban but, according to assistant coach Chris Thorman, their appeal failed and, to make matters worse, he will now sit out the next three games.

“An extra game given for challenging,” Thorman tweeted. “We seriously need to change the rules, this game is not what it used to.”