Leeds Rhinos can hurt star-studded Melbourne Storm

 

The big-match expertise that has made Leeds the dominant team in Super League faces perhaps its biggest test at Headingley tomorrow night.

The Rhinos play the Australian champions, the Melbourne Storm, in the World Club Challenge and, if they are the best team in Britain, few would argue that, week by week, the Victorians are the best side in the world.

Melbourne, who beat Leeds at Elland Road in the equivalent fixture three years ago, still have the spine of three of the game's greatest modern-day players – Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith. Those who have watched them train since arriving in England have described their preparation as the most intense they have seen, which could be a reflection of their approach to this game as well as their overall philosophy.

Leeds, however, have the advantage of having played three competitive matches so far this season – one of them the sort of shock defeat by Castleford that tends to pepper their form early in the year. They will also have a packed Headingley behind them in a fixture that traditionally raises the emotional temperature.

Australian sides have complained in the past about an excessively physical approach from their British opponents. "The British teams have a reputation for being more physical," said the half-back Cronk. "The Australian teams have a reputation for being a bit more athletic."

One thing Cronk and his team-mates will not have to worry about is the damage that can be done by a shoulder-charge. The Rugby League this week followed the lead of Australia's NRL and the code's International Federation in banning that technique, starting tonight.

The Castleford stand-off Rangi Chase is serving a ban for a high shoulder on the Rhinos' Zak Hardaker, although it is a fractured thumb that keeps the Leeds man out tonight. That has forced his coach, Brian McDermott, into a reshuffle in the backs. Kallum Watkins moves to full-back, a position he has not played in senior rugby, with Carl Ablett coming out of the pack to take his place in the centre.

That leaves McDermott to decide between the Australian backpacker Joe Vickery, who paid his own way to Leeds this winter looking for a chance, and the half-German student Jimmy Keinhorst on the right wing.

In the forwards, he is without the injured Ryan Bailey, a player who will miss the shoulder-charge more than most, but Jamie Peacock, someone who particularly relishes these occasions, will be back after being rested last weekend.

The Leeds chief executive, Gary Hetherington, is the most vocal advocate of expanding the World Club Challenge into a six-team format. Most of the full house at Headingley tonight would probably be of the opinion that it works pretty well in its present, condensed form.

Life and Style
Small winemakers say the restriction makes it hard to sell overseas
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jerry Hall (Hand out press photograph provided by jackstanley@theambassadors.com)
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Clare Balding
peopleClare Balding on how women's football is shaking up sport
Sport
Lewis Hamtilon and pole-sitter Nico Rosberg
SportShould F1's most aggressive driver curb his instincts in title decider?
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Sport
premier leagueMatch report: Arsenal 1 Man United 2
Arts and Entertainment
Kirk Cameron is begging his Facebook fans to give him positive reviews
film
News
i100
Sport
Jonny May scores for England
rugby unionEngland 28 Samoa 9: Wing scores twice to help England record their first win in six
Life and Style
fashionThe Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Sport
Tony Bellew (left) and Nathan Cleverly clash at the Echo Arena in Liverpool
boxingLate surge sees Liverpudlian move into world title contention
Voices
Neil Findlay
voicesThe vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
food + drinkMeat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin