Coach Jon Sharp is under no illusion about the size of the task Featherstone Rovers face in Saturday’s opening Middle 8s fixture against last year’s treble winners Leeds Rhinos at Big Fellas Stadium.
The Rhinos, who finished fourth bottom in Super League, completed the regular season impressively with victories against Hull FC, Wigan Warriors and Hull KR.
They will provide a stern test for in-form Rovers who clinched fourth spot in the Championship with their four successive win by beating Bradford Bulls 20-0.
“Leeds’ recent form has been absolutely outstanding. They beat table-toppers Hull, second-placed Wigan and won at Hull Kingston Rovers. It highlights the big task we have,” said Sharp.
“I just want us to continue what we are doing and to be competitive and play the best we can.
“We’ve defended well all year and finished with the Championship’s best defensive record.
“It’s something we are proud of and we need to be at the level we were against Bradford because we are coming up against a team of all talents.
“I am really excited about Saturday’s game.
“I am excited for the players, the staff, the community and the club.
“It just rolls back the years. When Leeds came to town in the past, it was always a special occasion and it’s just a massive day for the club and the town this weekend.
“It’s a great opener. It’s like the first game of the season and you couldn’t wish for a better fixture.
“I’m just pleased for the club and the fans that we have got Leeds Rhinos at home and it’s on Sky TV which makes it an even bigger occasion.”
Rovers have an excellent home record this year, with just two narrow defeats gainst Leigh Centurions and Halifax.
“We were very much aware of the disappointing home form last season and we managed to turn that round by winning nine out of 11,” added Sharp.
“We are really pleased with our home form and we enjoy playing in front of our own fans who are very vociferous and get behind us and encourage us.”
Featherstone will again be without Jamie Cording and Colton Roche on Saturday.
Cording (knee injury) is a couple of weeks away from returning while Roche is serving the final game of a three-match suspension.
Leeds Rhinos’ dual-registered players Ashton Golding and Anthony Mullally, who played in the victory against Bradford, are unavailable.
However, winger Luke Briscoe and prop Jordan Baldwinson will face their parent club Leeds after being loaned to Featherstone for the remainder of the season.
Luke Briscoe will play against elder brother Tom for the first time on Saturday.