Rhinos out to upset Wolves
Leeds Rhinos coach Brian McDermott is hoping to "ruffle a few feathers" when the reigning Super League champions visit third-placed Warrington Wolves in tomorrow's Grand-Final re-match.
The Rhinos boss has set his sights on improving on the fifth-place finish from which his team have won the last two Grand Finals but he has not yet given up hope of overhauling the Wolves.
Victory at the Halliwell Jones Stadium would take Leeds to within two points of Tony Smith's men with a game in hand and keep them in touch with leaders Wigan Warriors, who hope to avoid a third straight defeat when they host Bradford Bulls tomorrow.
"We're not giving up on the top three," McDermott said.
"I don't know whether we can do top two - I haven't looked at that - but it's one step at a time.
"We keep finishing fifth so we'll try and do fourth this year.
"We'll have our work cut out tomorrow. They, along with Wigan and Huddersfield, are the real contenders for everything at the moment.
"But, if we can win, it would ruffle a few feathers, based on what the perception is of where our team is at and what we could possibly do this year."
McDermott is hoping to have skipper Kevin Sinfield and Brett Delaney back for the Rhinos' next match against Wakefield Trinity Wildcats on July 19 but, in the meantime, will continue to rely on the youngsters who have stepped into the breach so admirably in recent weeks.
"I'm looking forward to seeing them against a good team," he added.
"It will be intense. Some of our young end have never played in that environment."
Smith, who has the luxury of being able to field a near full-strength team, said: "Leeds have got some young, enthusiastic players in at the moment along with a reasonable number of international players so they'll be a really tough test for us.
"We've had some great encounters with them over the last few years. A Friday evening at the Halliwell Jones against Leeds is a mouth-watering prospect for all concerned."
Wigan coach Shaun Wane would love to replicate the atmosphere expected at Warrington for his side's home game against the Bulls.
Wane believes playing in front of an intimidating crowd can provide a crucial lift to a team and reckons a subdued atmosphere at the DW Stadium last Friday may have contributed to his side's surprise home defeat by Castleford Tigers.
"We want to make the DW a fortress, an intimidating place to come, and at the minute it's not that," Wane said.
"It's quite a nice place to come and we don't want it to be. When you go to Warrington it's not a very nice place because the crowd is very vocal.
"It's a pretty intimidating place - I was nearly fighting in the crowd - and I want the DW to be the same."
While Wigan are aiming to avoid a third successive defeat for the first time since the start of the 2009 season, Bradford are in freefall after winning just one of their last nine league games to plummet from third to 10th in the table.
However, the Bulls are boosted by the return of scrum-half Luke Gale, who missed their defeat by Warrington last Sunday following the death of his mother, and Wane expects a tough challenge from the Yorkshire side, who pulled off a shock 30-22 win at the DW Stadium last season.
"They throw a lot at you," Wane said. "They pushed Warrington really close despite being without some of their talent.
"But we know what we need to do to win the game."