Leeds Rhinos head coach Richard Agar expects a strong competition this season

Leeds Rhinos head coach Richard Agar admits teams are still learning about each other at this stage of the season.

His side lost their opening game of the campaign 20-22 to Warrington Wolves at Headingley on Saturday, having been a man down for most of the game following James Bentley’s 16th-minute red card.

Speaking at the Super League media day ahead of the season, Agar spoke about the competition Leeds will face this year, with Wigan being their next opponents.

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He said: “There are some very different entities this year. I was impressed with Wigan when they played Warrington (in pre-season).

Richard Agar says teams are still learning about each other

“I saw a few good things, certainly defensively in what they were doing.

“ Historically over a number of seasons, Wigan have been hard to break down and are renowned as a tough team. They still look like they could be that to me.

“Obviously there’ll be some changes in and around the spine positions, it is a little bit of the unknown, but that’s the same for all the teams coming into the early rounds, ourselves included.

“I’m sure just as we are looking at them, having a limited idea of what will be in front of us, the same could be said when they are looking at us too.

“Ultimately it’s important how you go over 20-odd rounds. We had a really difficult start last year for a lot of reasons, but we managed to hang in there.

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“There’s some areas of the game everyone wants to get right early doors – the completion side, the kick chase, the effort areas are all good. As the season gets going, I think teams gradually evolve.”

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Agar says St Helens are the team everyone is looking at, following their dominance across the last three seasons.

“I guess for three years I’ve used Saints as a bit of a benchmark for us, and I’m not just talking about what you see through the 80 minutes,” he said.

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“I think how they recruit and keep such stability in the club, how they get the juniors to a level where they are really comfortable.

“They are the club I have personally had a good look at how they have done things over a number of years.

“I wouldn’t say we want to replicate it because we are different clubs in different areas of the sport.

“I like to think we are in a position which we have steadily built. From being in the job three-and-a-half years ago, when the club had been in some relegation battles, we have improved.

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“Gradually step by step we can get closer to closing that gap, but we’re not the only ones wanting to do that.”

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