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Page last updated at 14:59 GMT, Sunday, 27 September 2009 15:59 UK

Leeds choose Catalans in play-off


Leeds pick Catalans in historic ClubCall

Leeds Rhinos have chosen French club Catalans Dragons as their opponents for Friday's Super League play-off semi-final at Headingley.

The 'ClubCall' decision means Wigan will take on local rivals St Helens in the second semi-final, with a place in the Grand Final at stake.

The Dragons were eighth at the end of the regular season, with Wigan sixth.

"It was a 50-50 call. Both teams beat us the last time we played," said Rhinos coach Brian McClennan.

"We looked at the lowest-ranked team coming through but Catalans are doing a great job. They are in good form and we know we're in for a tough job on Friday."

The play-off system, featuring eight teams, has been revamped this year.

But by far the most controversial aspect of the new system has been the decision to allow the top seeded team to pick their opponents in the last four, believed to be a first in professional sport.

The innovation has divided opinion in rugby league, with Leeds forward and England captain Jamie Peacock branding the concept as "a gimmick too far".


But supporters of the idea insist it will add extra spice to the competition, with the Dragons likely to be fired up at being thought of easier opponents.

Leeds, the defending champions, finished the regular season at the top of the table, and qualified for the semi-final courtesy of a crushing 44-8 win over Hull KR in the opening round of the play-offs.

The Dragons squeezed into the play-offs courtesy of a final-day victory over St Helens, but have hit form in impressive fashion with away victories over Wakefield and Huddersfield taking them to within 80 minutes of the Grand Final.

"It's not really a surprise," said Catalans chief executive Christophe Levy.

"It is a huge task. We have never won here but we had never won at St Helens up to two weeks ago."

Catalans coach Kevin Walters added: "I think Leeds made the logical decision. If there had been no ClubCall, we were the lowest-ranked winner, so the two would have played each other.

"Headingley hasn't been a happy hunting ground for the Dragons but that's to be expected, they've been champions for the last two years.

"There's not a tougher away game to go to, particularly with the pressure involved of the semi-finals, but we're happy to be invited to the game."

The two teams have met three times this season, with the Dragons winning 32-30 at home in June. But Leeds won 36-16 in France and 42-14 at the Murrayfield weekend earlier in the year.

Wigan have also been in impressive form, winning 10 of their last 13 matches, including play-off victories over Castleford and Hull KR.

The Warriors, who are hoping to reach their first Grand Final since 2003, will face St Helens at Knowsley Road on Saturday.

Wigan coach Brian Noble admitted he would like the rules to be tweaked to allow the top club the option of choosing any of the remaining teams.

And St Helens chairman Eamon McManus admits he still has reservations about the system.

"I've been a great supporter of results dictating fixtures," he said.

"But I'm aware of the extra publicity that it has produced for the game and I will reserve my judgement for the end of the season.

"I wasn't perturbed at not having to choose. All four teams are pretty near to each other in terms of standard and fitness and both games are very difficult to call.

"I would have liked to have seen a Wigan-Saints final. I may be biased but I think that is the biggest game in rugby league."

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see also
Huddersfield 6-16 Catalans
25 Sep 09 |  Rugby League
Hull KR 16-30 Wigan
26 Sep 09 |  Rugby League
BBC's Super League Show
26 Sep 09 |  Rugby League
Play-offs are flawed, says Wilkin
18 Sep 09 |  Rugby League
Road to Old Trafford
25 Sep 09 |  Rugby League
Super League play-offs overhauled
30 Nov 08 |  Rugby League

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