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Men's Rugby League Leeds captain Watkins backs side to leave Australia with World Club Challenge

LEEDS have been warned the odds are stacked against them but captain Kallum Watkins insisted yesterday that his side will not make excuses if they don’t win the world title.

The Rhinos have put their Super League title defence on hold to fly 12,000 miles to Australia to take on Melbourne Storm in Friday’s 2018 World Club Challenge.

Huddersfield forward Ryan Hinchcliffe, who was a World Club Challenge winner on English soil with Melbourne, believes Leeds will have the advantage of being battle hardened from their opening two league games but expects them to come away from Australia empty handed.

“It’s a tough gig for Leeds to go out there in those conditions and on a dry track,” said Hinchcliffe, who made 177 appearances for the Storm from 2009-2015.

“There haven’t been many dry tracks over here in the last couple of months.

“Having played a couple of games definitely helps you without a doubt.

“When I came over with Melbourne we hadn’t played a trial and we’d trained on a dirt track in Australia for the pre-season so that made it more challenging.

“Leeds play a pretty expansive style of game, they like to throw the ball around so the drier conditions might help them.

“But I think the Melbourne Storm will win it. They were probably 20 per cent better than any other team in the NRL last year to be honest. They’re a formidable outfit and they’ll be very keen to win this game.”

The Rhinos, who flew out in three groups after their win over Hull KR last Thursday, had their first full day of training in Melbourne yesterday with a morning weights session, followed by a field session in the afternoon.

Sandwiched in between, Watkins spoke of his team’s ambitions at the official launch alongside Melbourne captain Cameron Smith, who confirmed his intention to play in Friday’s game.

“It’s massive opportunity for us,” Watkins said. “Obviously it’s a short trip but we’ve got to make the most of it.

“There’s an opportunity to be the best club in the world. We’re really excited for that opportunity.”

Watkins said he is delighted that Smith will play in the match, alongside full-back Billy Slater and centre Will Chambers, who were all in the Australia team that beat England 6-0 in the World Cup final in December.

“We want them all to play,” Watkins said. “We want to battle with the best players. We’re not a bad bunch ourselves.”

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