MICHAEL Maguire has dismissed suggestions Leeds are not the force they once were – and has told his players to prepare for a thunderous Headingley showdown tonight.
The two sides have fought out some thrilling epics in recent seasons, and last year it was the Warriors who dumped the Rhinos out of the Super League play-offs – months after Leeds had ended Wigan’s Challenge Cup involvement.
This season the Yorkshire heavyweights have made a stuttering start under new coach Brian McDermott, losing three of their opening seven matches including a shock home defeat to Harlequins.
But Maguire points to the wealth – and depth – of talent in their squad as reasons why they remain a real force.
And he says his players will not be taking them lightly as they aim to stretch their unbeaten run away from home in Super League to last March.
The Australian said: “Leeds are a team that have been at the top for a long time, they have good quality kids coming through and you look at their side – we’re well aware of what they’re capable of.
“There’s a rivalry between the two sides.
“If all our players turn up and do their job, then hopefully the result will take care of itself.”
Maguire expects Brett Finch to be better for having made his Wigan debut last Friday night.
The former Melbourne stand-off showed touches of quality but also plenty of ring-rust, in his first match at any level in more than six months.
“It was tough for him last week, it was a big crowd and his first occasion playing for Wigan, and he put a lot into it,” added Maguire. “At times, he showed his quality but he also knows he can be a much better player than he showed at other times.
“It’s going to be a big bonus for us once Finchy is up and running and has played a few games, we’re looking forward to seeing him move forward with the team.”
Finch is expected to keep his place at stand-off, but the return of Liam Farrell and Joel Tomkins may force changes elsewhere, with some suggestion the latter may take his place in the three-quarter line.
Amos Roberts is also expected to start on the wing, in place of Josh Charnley.