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World Club Challenge preview: Leeds Rhinos tackle Melbourne Storm at Headingley
The Leeds Rhinos will be hoping to make it back-to-back World Club Challenge wins on Friday night against the Melbourne Storm at Headingley.
The Super League champions toppled the Manly Sea Eagles a year ago while their meetings with Melbourne have been split with Leeds claiming the 2008 battle 11-4 with the Storm securing a 18-10 success at Elland Road two years later.
The 2013 World Cup Challenge will be the sixth time Leeds have contested the final in the past eight years while Melbourne are competing in their fourth overall.
Leeds warmed up for the showdown with a 42-14 success over the struggling Salford City Reds last weekend. The NRL is yet to get underway this season and the Storm took on Halifax in an opposed training session on Tuesday.
The Rhinos have been boosted by the availability of Australian Joe Vickery, who suffered an ankle injury in his debut against Hull FC three weeks ago and was expected to be out of action for at least six weeks.
However, he has made a remarkable recovery and is now included in head coach Brian McDermott's 19-man squad to face the NRL Champions.
The Rhinos will be without full-back Zak Hardaker (thumb), Ryan Bailey (knee), Ben Jones-Bishop (long term) but also welcome back Brett Delaney and Jamie Peacock, who missed the win over the City Reds.
Junior Kiwi Tohu Harris will make his debut for the Storm after coming in to replace injured second rower Kevin Proctor.
Former New Zealand Test centre Junior Sau, one of three close-season signings made by the club, and teenage half-back Ben Hampton have been omitted by Storm coach Craig Bellamy when he trimmed his matchday squad to 19 players.
Eleven members of the side that beat Canterbury Bulldogs 14-4 in September's Grand Final, including England international Gareth Widdop and former Wigan forward Ryan Hoffman, will feature though, with Hoffman set to play in his fourth World Club Challenge.
Another ex-Wigan player, stand-off Brett Finch, looks likely to start on the bench as he begins his second spell with the club.
Leeds Rhinos squad: K Watkins, J Moon, R Hall, D McGuire, R Burrow, K Leuluai, P McShane, J Peacock, J Jones-Buchanan, C Ablett, K Sinfield (c), S Ward, B Delaney, I Kirke, C Clarkson, M Achurch, R Moore, J Keinhorst, J Vickery.
Melbourne Storm squad: B Slater; S Waqa, J O'Neill, W Chambers, M Fonua; G Widdop, C Cronk; J Bromwich, C Smith (c), N Norrie, R Hoffman, T Harris, R Hinchcliffe, B Finch, J Ryles, S Vave, L Setu, K Bromwich, J Moors.
What they said...
Leeds Rhinos head coach Brian McDermott
"We have to be very, very good to beat Melbourne. They are an outstanding team. They'll bring everything on Friday night," said McDermott.
"We'll have to have some added stuff, especially defensively to shut them out. The occasion is going to get the best out of everyone.
"We're ready. We know how much effort and energy is going to be involved. It will take an almighty defensive effort to shut Melbourne out."
Melbourne Storm's Gareth Widdop
"Look, we haven't come all this way to take it easy. It's a massive game and we want to be crowned World Champions, that is what we're here to do," he said.
"They're a great side and the atmosphere is going to be electric on Friday night, but we have trained really well and are looking forward to it now.
"It's a massive game and we all enjoy coming over and playing in these big games. All my friends and family are going to come down this afternoon, back to where it all started for me which is a real privilege."
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