Tony Clubb is under no illusions that Leeds Rhinos will bring their a-game when they take on Wigan tonight.
The reigning Super League champions have been bitterly disappointing this season, only picking up their first victory of the season last week. In contrast, the Warriors still have a 100% record in Super League this season and will go joint top of the division with a victory over the Rhinos tonight.
Shaun Wane’s side are heavy favourites going into the match due to the form of both teams while the Warriors also have the added incentive of avenging last year’s agonising Grand Final defeat at Old Trafford, a game the Rhinos won 22-20.
However, the rivalry developed between the teams has given a different context to the fixture, a fact that makes Clubb believe we will finally see the Rhinos at their best tonight.
“We know the team that has shown up the last few weeks won’t show up at the DW Stadium,” Clubb told TotalRL.
“If I could tell you what makes it special I would, I just think it is two great teams going at it. We seem to bring the best out of each other.
“It’s a game the players look forward to as well. You don’t have to get up for it, it’s a game you can walk into and be excited. This week we’ve had a pretty light week to freshen up, and I think that’s because Waney knows we’ll get on the back of the match.”
When asked whether tonight’s game was a battle between the league’s two best teams, Clubb answered with conviction.
“Definitely,” he said. “They’re not a poor team, they shouldn’t be where they are. Last year proved that, they don’t become a poor team overnight. They lost a lot of their core players that had been there a long time. They’re probably trying to adapt to that, but they’re still a quality team with young kids coming through. The likes of Sutcliffe and Lilley are probably going to push on to play for England in a few years.
And in the biggest compliment that could possibly be given, Clubb compared Wigan’s bouts with the Rhinos to their famous rivalry with St Helens.
“Bar the atmosphere, there’s not much difference,” he said. “Saints and Wigan go back a long time, but Wigan and Leeds have had some crackers. I’m sure a lot has been said about the Grand Final, but it’s two different teams this year. It’s going to be a really good, physical game.”