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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 February 2008, 18:23 GMT
Leeds boss braced for final Storm
Leeds coach Brian McClennnan
Leeds coach McClennan watched the last two finals on television

Venue: Elland Road
Kick-off: 1930 GMT, Friday 29 February
BBC coverage: Live on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and highlights on BBC One and BBC Sport website at 1300 GMT on 1 March

Leeds Rhinos coach Brian McClennan has warned his players they will have to be at their best to beat Melbourne Storm in Friday's World Club Challenge.

"We are coming up against the powerhouse of the National Rugby League," McClennan told BBC Sport.

"Melbourne have been the dominant team of the last two years."

English teams have won the last four World Club Challenge ties between the champions of Super League and the Australian NRL.

Leeds were triumphant in February 2005, defeating Canterbury Bulldogs 39-32 at Elland Road.

The Rhinos led by 20 points after a one-sided first half before the Bulldogs rallied late on, scoring four quick tries, to lend an air of respectability to the scoreline.

We are representing the NRL and we are proud to be doing that

Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy

But it was clear that with the NRL season yet to start, the Bulldogs were woefully under-cooked, an opposition lacking match sharpness.

This year the Storm have taken measures to reduce the scheduling and logistical disadvantages that traditionally work against Australian teams flying over.

They played a pre-season match against Manly, arrived in Leeds 11 days before the final, had a hit-out against Halifax and have been training with Hull.

"We are representing the NRL and we are proud to be doing that," coach Craig Bellamy told BBC Sport.

"The World Club Challenge has a prestigious title about it. At Melbourne, we see every game as important but this is a little bit more so.
THIS DECADE'S WORLD CLUB CHALLENGE TIES
2000: St Helens 6-44 Melbourne Storm
2001: St Helens 20-18 Brisbane Broncos
2002: Bradford 41-26 Newcastle Knights
2003: St Helens 0-38 Sydney Roosters
2004: Bradford 22-4 Penrith Panthers
2005: Leeds 39-32 Canterbury Bulldogs
2006: Bradford 30-10 Wests Tigers
2007: St Helens 18-14 Brisbane Broncos

"We have brought the best squad we have available and we are really looking forward to Friday night."

Leeds have started the current season with four straight wins under new coach McClennan and lead the Super League table.

But McClennan is not afraid to admit that the Rhinos have worked through the early rounds of the season with the aim of being in top form to face the Storm.

"We are placing huge importance on this game," added the Kiwi, who replaced Tony Smith as coach during the close season.

"All our preparations have been towards making sure we go into this final the best we can. We have been getting ourselves ready for this game."

McClennan was coach of New Zealand when St Helens beat Brisbane Broncos in 2007 and Bradford Bulls overcame Wests Tigers the year before that, but he watched both games on television as an interested viewer.

In all probability Leeds Rhinos' influential second rower Gareth Ellis will be watching next year's final on TV.

The England international will be preparing for his first season in the NRL with Wests Tigers, who he will join at the end of the current campaign.

Gareth Ellis in action for Leeds
Ellis moves to the NRL at the end of the season

He will have a taste of what lies in store for him next year against Melbourne, particularly as he will be up against two highly-rated forwards in Ryan Hoffman and Dallas Johnson.

"There will be a few people over there in Australia looking at me and wondering if I'm any good," said Ellis.

"That's a little personal challenge for me to play well.

"Next year I could be playing for Wests Tigers against Leeds Rhinos, which would be nice. It has crossed my mind."

Ellis made his debut for Leeds in the 2005 win over Canterbury.

Jamie Peacock was at Bradford back then - and won two World Club Challenge matches with the Bulls.

But he is no doubt that whatever club shirt a Super League player pulls on, when facing an Aussie team there is a bigger picture to be understood.

606: DEBATE
Gavski-Leeds

"I am patriotic and I feel like we are representing England," said Peacock.

"It's the best against the best and it would be good to get the bragging rights at the start of the year.

"I've won two World Club Challenges and I'd dearly like to make it three out of three."

Leeds skipper Kevin Sinfield and Melbourne's Billy Slater will both be on BBC Radio 5 Live Sport on Thursday night.

SEE ALSO
Countdown to World Club Challenge
26 Feb 08 |  Rugby League
Melbourne Storm name strong squad
15 Feb 08 |  Rugby League
Melbourne take Grand Final glory
30 Sep 07 |  Rugby League
St Helens 6-33 Leeds Rhinos
13 Oct 07 |  Rugby League


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