Kristian Woolf delivers Leeds Rhinos verdict ahead of Super League play-off tie

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Kristian Woolf insists reigning Super League champions St Helens will have to produce their very best performance to deny Leeds a place in next week’s Super League Grand Final – and admits they’re happy to be facing a stronger Rhinos side than the last one they faced.

The two most successful sides in Super League history will do battle on Friday night, with only one progressing to Old Trafford to face either Catalans Dragons or Hull Kingston Rovers. Three weeks ago, a vastly under-strength Leeds side crossed the Pennines and were hammered 40-6 by the Saints.

But Richard Agar’s side will be in much ruder health for the semi-final showdown at the Totally Wicked Stadium on Friday night, and Woolf insists that’s exactly how he and his side want it to be.

“It’s a big game, a semi-final to get to a Grand Final and we want to see Leeds at their strongest, with their best forward pack available,” he said.

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“That all adds to the occasion and the quality of the game. If we’re good enough to go through on the night, we want it to be because we’ve beaten the best Leeds side out there.”

Woolf also stressed that after a fortnight break between games, the Saints will have to be at their absolute peak to eliminate a Leeds side once again aiming to win the Super League title from fifth position.

“They can certainly defend, they’ve been doing that for long periods in their games,” he said.

“Their performance against Wigan wasn’t really a surprise to us. There’s a lot of class in their side and they’ve shown grit all year. THey’re a tough team to play and they’re deserving of being in the final four. They played well against Wigan and we’re going to have to be our best. But we’re confident in what our best looks like.”

The Saints will be able to call upon a near-full strength side for the game on Friday. Only long-term injury absentees Theo Fages and future Rhinos forward James Bentley are missing, leaving Woolf in confident mood. “It’s the biggest league game of the year so far and it all comes down to what each team comes up with on the night.

“We’re confident for sure. I think we’ve played our best footy over the last five or six weeks. There’s a lot at stake, but they’re the games you want to be a part of.”