Watkins hails Rhinos' recruitment


Kallum Watkins is confident Leeds Rhinos' off-season recruitment will serve them well as they prepare to begin the mammoth task of backing up last term's treble-winning success.

The Rhinos won the Challenge Cup, League Leaders' Shield and Super League Grand Final in 2015 to provide a fitting send-off for Kevin Sinfield, Jamie Peacock and Kylie Leuluai in their final year as rugby league players.

A treble had only been completed twice before in the Super League era, so Leeds certainly have a tough act to follow ahead of the new campaign, which they kick off with a home game against Warrington Wolves next Thursday.

However, while Sinfield, Peacock and Leuluai have moved on, together with experienced hooker Paul Aiton, the arrivals of the likes of Keith Galloway, Beau Falloon and Brett Ferres have encouraged Watkins.

Galloway and Falloon have each moved to Headingley from the NRL, while Ferres - an England team-mate of Watkins - agreed a switch from near neighbours Huddersfield this month.

Speaking at Super League's season launch in Manchester on Thursday, Watkins said: "We've recruited well. Keith and Beau have come in and have been fantastic throughout pre-season and Fez [Ferres] coming in as well - he had a fantastic year last year, in terms of an international perspective.

"Keith's been an international for Australia before and played for New South Wales, so he's got huge experience, [and he is] a big fella as well.

"And Beau's a hooker that can run really hard and tackle really hard as well - [he has] quite a few similarities with Paul Aiton.

"In terms of replacing the players that have gone, we've done quite well. Obviously, they [Sinfield, Peacock and Leuluai] will be irreplacable, but to bring in those kind of players [Galloway, Falloon and Ferres] has been a huge coup for us."

Leeds' training base was severely affected by flooding in the north of England in December, but Watkins insists the Rhinos have been able to prepare adequately for the new season.

"I think we've tried to make it a positive," he added. "We've been on the road a bit, but not too far - just here, there and everywhere around Leeds.

"You're still getting the same amount of time on the field and in the gym, stuff like that. Obviously it's not the ideal environment, in terms of whether we're going to train at this ground, or are we going to have to train at another ground, are we going to have to travel. But you can't make that an excuse."