THEY have flown to the other side of the world and back since their last Betfred Super League fixture, but coach Brian McDermott insists Leeds Rhinos will be fresh and ready to go at Widnes Vikings tomorrow.
Leeds’s previous league game was against Hull KR 16 days ago.
We arrived back in England last Sunday and we’ve had seven days to prepare. We are in Super League now, we’ve already played two rounds and we always knew we were going to play round three the week after we got back.Leeds Rhinos’ head coach, Brian McDermott
Since then they have travelled to Australia, been beaten 38-4 by Melbourne Storm in the World Club Challenge and made the return trip.
It was a daunting schedule and Leeds’s poor recent record at Widnes, where they have not won since 2014, does not make this weekend’s task any easier. But an upbeat McDermott says the week in Melbourne was worthwhile, despite the result and he is confident Leeds can maintain their positive start to the league season.
“I was disappointed with the loss, but it was a good week,” McDermott said of the jaunt Down Under.
“It is an adventure going to Australia for seven days and dealing with the flights and that sort of thing, but they did that and they are ready to get back into Super League.
“The journey itself is physically hard, but actual jetlag where your sleeping patterns are disrupted to such a degree you can’t operate, it is not going to be that bad.
“We arrived back in England last Sunday and we’ve had seven days to prepare.
“We are in Super League now, we’ve already played two rounds and we always knew we were going to play round three the week after we got back.
“We’d be kicking our heels if it was 10 days or two weeks to recover; that would be too much,” he said
Leeds will be without full-back Jack Walker (knee), prop Adam Cuthbertson (fractured hand) and loose-forward Stevie Ward (torn calf muscle) who were all injured against Melbourne.
Five players could make their first appearance of the season for Leeds, with Mitch Garbutt (dead leg) and Mikolaj Oledzki (shoulder) both in contention alongside Ashton Golding, Ash Handley and Josh Walters.
“The team we are going to field against Widnes is good enough,” McDermott stressed.
But the Leeds coach admitted he has concerns about playing on Widnes’s artificial surface tomorrow.
“Because we can train on our three-g field a lot it probably affects us a little bit less than somebody who doesn’t have a three-g field,” McDermott said.
“But I don’t think their [Widnes] three-g field is as good as ours.
“Ours is in better nick than theirs and ours is only a training surface.
“Their three-g field is, in my opinion, too firm; there’s not enough give in it.
“For what it’s worth, it’s not something we look forward to doing, purely because of such a dramatic change in surface from what we play on week-in, week-out.”
Widnes will be without forwards Chris Houston, who was suspended for two games following a collision with referee Phil Bentham in last week’s defeat by Warrington Wolves.