Rugby League - McDermott: Play-off teams all tough

Wigan and Leeds will determine their opening play-off opponents when they meet in Thursday's final match of the regular Super League season but both coaches insist they have no preference.

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Rugby League - McDermott: Play-off teams all tough
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Leeds coach Brian McDermott says he has 'no real preference' for which team he would like to face in the play-off

The winners at the DW Stadium will secure a third-place finish and a trip to Warrington in the qualifying play-offs, with the losers ending up fourth and going to table toppers Huddersfield.

With many pundits still expecting the Giants to falter before the end of the season, the conspiracy theorists suggest a defeat might present an easier route to Old Trafford.

"If you think about it that much, I suppose there may be a little of why you want to play one team more than another but Huddersfield are a good team," Leeds coach Brian McDermott said.

"They've been very good and are a strong team, as are Warrington, as are Wigan, as are St Helens, as are Catalan and so on.

"You just take care of your own backyard and what you can control at this stage of the year.

"I've got no real preference. Every team in the play-offs is there by merit and certainly in the top four.

"If you're going to get to Old Trafford you're going to have to be good and get over a team who's in form."

Wigan coach Shaun Wane, who is hoping to guide his side to the first league and cup double for seven years, believes they will be underdogs whether they face the Wolves or the Giants.

"I don't mind where we finish or who we play," Wane said. "I'm being genuine there. Huddersfield or Warrington, they're both going to be tough games.

"Both are in good form and playing well, so it doesn't make any difference to us. We'll go there as underdogs. I've no preference at all."

Leeds won on their last visit to the DW Stadium, knocking the Warriors out of the play-offs at the semi-final stage last September on their way to retaining their crown at Old Trafford, and gained an 18-14 win at Headingley in March.

"They're a quality team," Wane acknowledged. "Every time we've played them in the last few seasons they've been great games. It's a real challenge for us and I expect us to be up for it."

The Rhinos are without prop Ryan Bailey through suspension but welcome back second rowers Jamie Jones-Buchanan and Brett Delaney from lengthy injury lay-offs and, with hooker Rob Burrow also returning after missing last Friday's win over Catalan, McDermott is able to select from a near full-strength squad.

Wane recalls 10 members of his Challenge Cup-winning team but is without his inspirational captain Sean O'Loughlin, who has been ruled out for at least four weeks with a torn Achilles, and McDermott admits he will be a loss for the home side.

"I think he's had a cracking season," McDermott said. "He's one of those players who's big enough and strong enough and robust enough to play like a ball-playing prop almost and be quite effective like that.

"But he's got the subtleties and some of that guile and the skill to be a stand-off so he's a very valuable player."

Wane has singled out Leeds' former England captain Jamie Peacock, who has been tipped by Sam Tomkins as a potential Man of Steel, as the biggest danger to his side.

"Jamie Peacock is probably playing the best rugby he's played for many years," Wane said. "He's an outstanding individual and a player I admire greatly."

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