RUGBY LEAGUE: Pride fires Leigh's campaign

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LEIGH'S BATTLE to hang on to the Super League place they took years to win begins today. Last season's National League One winners are the overwhelming favourites to go back down, but they are starting their campaign on a suitable note of defiance.

"We take a lot of motivation from being written off," said the club's prolific full-back, Neil Turley, one of the members of the promotion side who will be asked to step up. "We think that we are going to stay up."

The timing of their promotion is unfortunate for Leigh, with two teams to go down this year in order to accommodate Perpignan, but Turley draws comfort from the way other clubs have adapted to life in the top flight.

"We think we can take heart from what Huddersfield and Salford have done," he said yesterday.

Huddersfield are today's opponents and their consolidation in mid-table last season after years of struggle is indeed an inspiration. They must adapt to life this season without their dominant figure, Brandon Costin, but they have recruited some quality players to take up the baton.

Michael De Vere is still recovering from knee surgery, but Brad Drew makes his debut today and Chris Thorman begins his second spell with the club. "It's good to be back," said Thorman, who elected not to take up the second year on his contract with Parramatta Eels. "I have no regrets. I went there to learn and gain experience and I think I did that."

Like any promoted side, Leigh have had to recruit extensively and hurriedly and how they will gel is a matter of conjecture. What their coach, Darren Abram, does promise visitors to The Coliseum is an intimidating atmosphere.

"They can expect a hostile crowd hanging over the barriers giving them some abuse," he said, warning that there will be no luxury facilities in the changing-rooms. "They might find a rusty nail."

More seriously, Abram recognises that the odds are against his hastily- assembled side, but says: "We're very excited about it. We've only had a short time to prepare and get players, but we think we've recruited well. They'll be putting the jersey on full of pride. If we're not ready now, we're never going to be."