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Last Updated: Thursday, 31 January 2008, 06:58 GMT
McClennan undaunted by pressure
By Julian Shea

Brian McClennan
McClennan will make his Super League debut against Hull KR
Leeds coach Brian McClennan says last year's Super League triumph will be consigned to history as they start the new season against Hull KR on Saturday.

The new Rhinos boss has no elite-level club coaching experience but says he was keen to take up the challenge.

"We're not top any more. That was 2007, we start on the same starting line as everyone else," he told BBC Sport.

"I've got my own expectations for the team. I'm not bothered with other people's which I can't fulfil."

McClennan made his name as coach of New Zealand before earning the chance to replace Tony Smith, following his appointment as Great Britain and England manager, and makes his Super League bow against Hull KR.

And although he has not coached at the highest level in club football or played in England before, he has certainly done his homework - with the help of his father, former St Helens coach Mike McClennan.

I've watched, read and absorbed everything I can to be in the right frame to understand the culture of the game here

Brian McClennan

"I probably watched more English rugby than anyone else in New Zealand," he says.

"It was my role to do that before I started (the Leeds job) but I used to do it as a habit anyway, I've always enjoyed watching it.

"My dad coached here so I used to get the tapes sent back before anyone was getting any English football.

"I watched a lot and I've done a lot of reading about the tradition of the game - I'm very grateful and respectful to get a chance to be part of the game.

606: DEBATE

"I was first over here in 2004 as assistant to Daniel Anderson when he was New Zealand coach, I've been over here a number of times since and I've watched, read and absorbed everything I can to be in the right frame to understand the culture of the game here."

And even though he may not need to supply tapes of matches any more, McClennan Sr is still on hand to help out should his son need advice.

"Mum and Dad have moved over here too," he said.

"They lived here before when he was coaching Saints, he had some wonderful experiences then and they have many good friends from then so it's good to have him here.

Former Leeds coach Tony Smith and captain Kevin Sinfield
Smith signed off on a high as Leeds coach

"I've got somebody I can lean on."

McClennan arrived in England on 1 November, less than three weeks after Leeds' 33-6 Grand Final win over St Helens.

And although there have been no arrivals or departures from their playing squad, McClennan is keen to stress the team has been busy preparing for the defence of their title.

"Now I'm here I can see where I think the club needs to go," he says.

"Over the course of this year we'll get a feel for what we need, but right at the moment it's very healthy.

"I'm settled in now. I don't look at it as a culture shock, I'm just concentrating on getting a team who can play some good football.

"We've got to concentrate on trying to improve ourselves day in, day out, but we're pretty confident we've got a team who are capable of playing some good rugby and being in with a chance."

SEE ALSO
Super League XIII - Ins and Outs
18 Dec 07 |  Rugby League
Sinfield backs new Rhinos coach
15 Oct 07 |  Rugby League
St Helens 6-33 Leeds Rhinos
13 Oct 07 |  Rugby League
McClennan gets Leeds Rhinos post
11 Jul 07 |  Rugby League
Smith takes up Great Britain job
26 Mar 07 |  Rugby League
Brian McClennan Q&A
26 May 06 |  Rugby League


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