It’s a whole new ball game now, McDermott warns stars

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LEEDS Rhinos head coach Brian McDermott is under no illusions as to the size of the task as the defending champions venture to Warrington Wolves in their qualifying play-off this afternoon.

On their last trip there in July, severely-depleted Leeds almost grabbed a point before agonisingly going down 19-18 to Lee Briers’s dramatic drop goal in the final seconds.

Now ominously at full strength – Ryan Bailey is back from suspension to make his 300th career appearance while Jamie Jones-Buchanan and Brett Delaney both successfully returned from injury last week – McDermott could be forgiven for thinking his side are perfectly geared up to reverse that and move to within just 80 minutes of a third successive Old Trafford appearance.

“That’s the theory – that, because we’ve got our bodies back, all of a sudden it fixes itself up,” he said, ahead of what is also a 2012 Grand Final re-match.

“But I don’t think that’s quite true. We have to be careful that we’re not lulled into that false sense of security.

“That last performance there was a strong one. We knew it was at the time.

“Straight after the game, you are probably wrapped up with the disappointment of losing to make such a big thing of how strong a display it really was.

“But that was a few months ago now and a fair bit has gone on since then.

“It’s a different ball game. We’re going to have to be very good.”

McDermott recalled: “I think just the sheer work ethic against Warrington was the key in July.

“Interestingly, when we reviewed that game we knew we hadn’t thrown enough at them and when they really upped the ante towards those final five or six minutes, which ultimately got them the drop goal, we couldn’t contain that defensively.

“They ran a bit too strong, had too many options and created a bit too much doubt in our minds.

“The reason we were still in the game was just that work ethic but we lacked that extra part – that dynamic of Danny McGuire and Kev (Sinfield).”

Those England half-backs are back in unison after overcoming injuries, McGuire being set to play his third game following major knee surgery.

They both performed well, as did the entire Leeds team, as the six-times champions won at Wigan to claim third from the Challenge Cup winners.