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Leeds coach admits... I'm a Saints fan! McDermott praise ahead of cup clash.

Byline: IAN LAYBOURN

LEEDS coach Brian McDermott has revealed his admiration for arch rivals St Helens as the Super League heavyweights prepare to do battle in the fifth round of the Tetley's Challenge Cup.

The stand-out tie of the last 16 at Headingley on Saturday afternoon will feature arguably the two most exciting sets of outside backs in the English game, with Saints' emerging youngsters going head to head with the Rhinos' experienced internationals. Although St Helens have an overseas half-back pair, their outside backs are all home-grown and that has delighted former Great Britain international McDermott.

"That's why I've been a fan of Saints for a while," McDermott said. "While they are arch rivals and I want to beat them, for the good of our competition, I'm glad that they're challenging at the top.

"They've made some tough calls over the years with recruitment. They've stayed with British when they could have got overseas fellas in and it's good to see a club investing their money in the right way and doing things the right way.

"There will be a few good wingers on the pitch on Saturday and maybe that's where the game will come down to.

ChallengeCup "I think there's a few interesting clashes. It's very exciting."

Leeds St " Tom Makinson and Adam Swift were little-known wingers 12 months ago but have played key roles in Saints' impressive start today, live on to the season and, along with full-back Jonny Lomax, are expected to come into contention for England spots at the end of the year.

Four of Leeds' outside backs were in England's 2013 World Cup squad - Australian Joel Moon is the exception - and St Helens coach Nathan Brown believes the emergence of a crop of talented players is exciting for the British game.

"It's good isn't it?" said Brown, who arrived in Super League from Sydney in the autumn of 2008.

"The game's come on a long way over here.

v Helens "Five years ago you wouldn't see many real good British outside backs of class. There are a lot more now because the game's really developed a number of players in that area.

2.30pm, BBC1 "Our outside backs are young and their CVs don't read like the Leeds players, who have played for England for the past three or four years and have appeared in Grand Finals and Challenge Cup finals.

"The challenge for Tommy and Swifty and the other blokes is to play well consistently enough to take St Helens to trophies and their reward for that will be to play for England. Those blokes at Leeds have already been through that cycle."

Both McDermott and Brown are acutely aware that the backs will need the forwards to lay a platform if they are to show off their skills and Saints are boosted by the return of front-row pair Kyle Amor and Alex Walmsley as they look to bounce back from consecutive defeats over Easter.

It is only four weeks since Saints ended the Rhinos' unbeaten record with a thrilling last-gasp 14-10 Super League win at Langtree Park and Mc-Dermott is expecting another close contest.

"We're preparing for the long haul on Saturday," he said.

CAPTION(S):

DANGER MEN: St Helens players celebrate a try at Widnes on Easter Monday; (inset top) Leeds coach Brian McDermott
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Apr 26, 2014
Words:554
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