LEEDS // Danny McGuire is not used to losing with the Leeds Rhinos - and it is not a feeling he enjoys. But he believes the two defeats in their opening four games of the English Super League season could inspire them to victory in the World Club Challenge tonight.
The Rhinos, Grand Final winners for the past three seasons, take on Melbourne Storm, the NRL champions, at Elland Road, Leeds. It is an England versus Australia showdown of epic proportions that McGuire, a keen Leeds United football fan, said has the prestige of a Champions League final. "It's a Barcelona-Manchester United type of game. The two best club sides in the world going head to head," he said.
"For Melbourne to be in the last four Grand Finals in Australia, where the all-round standard is probably a lot better than our Super League, is unheard of really. "It shows what a great team they are. But we have won three titles back to back and beat them two years ago in the World Club Challenge so it's definitely the top two teams and a game to bring out the best in you." He added: "I think this season we might have started a bit too over-confident and we had a bit of a rude awakening with the defeats to Castleford and Wakefield.
"When you are losing it hurts. I'm not being cocky, but we are not used to it at Leeds. I've not been involved in a run of games where we have not played well. This season, we have not. "It's a tough challenge for us against Melbourne, but it's one we could do with right now to push us to our limits and find our best form. Every trophy is special in its own way, but to beat them would probably be the greatest achievement, definitely."
The main reason for that is the stellar names in the Melbourne line up, such as Greg Inglis, Billy Slater and Cameron Smith, their inspirational captain who could switch from hooker to half-back to face McGuire. "They are three of the top five in the world," said McGuire. "I'd love to face Smith. You always want to push yourself against the best. He's brilliant and always a thorn in our side when he's played against England for Australia."
Slater, meanwhile, said his side are well aware of the challenge ahead. "We all know it is going to be a physical game with the way Leeds play the game as they are a really big side," said the full-back. "The most important thing for us is that we match that and then use the skill and the pace we possess and give it back to them that way." Leeds have the weekend off from Super League duty, but Wigan maintained their 100 per cent record on Friday as they thrashed the Catalans Dragons 58-0 as Pat Richards went into the club's record books. He scored 38 points, the highest individual points tally by a Wigan player in the Super League, as he scored five tries and kicked nine goals.
The winger's only blip was hitting a post with his final conversion attempt, but Michael Maguire, the Wigan coach, could not hide his admiration. "He was great and I felt for him when he hit the post with that last kick," said Maguire. "He would have ended up with 10 out of 10 but Paddy had a great game. That's credit to him. He's working very hard and the performances are coming out." St Helens moved up to third as they beat Wakefield 22-16, while Hull got the better of Harlequins 28-4 and Bradford won a low-scoring affair at Salford 7-0.
Today's action sees Huddersfield take on Warrington. email@example.com