Sam Burgess made defence a priority for Warrington Wolves after taking over as head coach. Last week’s defeat at home to Catalans Dragons showed him they still have work to do in that department.

Prior to what turned out to be only the second loss of the 2024 Betfred Super League season for the Wolves, they had not conceded more than 20 points in a game in all competitions in 2024, yet found themselves 18 points down against the French side inside the first quarter of an hour.

Despite a second-half revival, Warrington were left with too much work to do and ultimately succumbed 32-24 to the Dragons. It is not quite back to the drawing board for Burgess, although he acknowledged there are parts to fix up ahead of Friday’s trip to Leeds Rhinos, live on Sky Sports.

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Highlights of the Betfred Super League match between Warrington Wolves and Catalans Dragons in Rivals Round

“We’ve worked hard on our defence over the off-season, and we didn’t see that, so we’ve got work to do,” Burgess told Sky Sports.

“We’ve got to fix a few things up, especially against the bigger teams. We’ve got to put some more value into our defence, but we’ve got a great run, and it will be a great test for our culture and see where we come as a club.”

By contrast, it was the defensive side of the game which played a big part in the Rhinos getting back to winning ways as they kicked off Rivals Round with a hard-fought 26-6 win away to Castleford Tigers last Thursday.

In total, Leeds had to spend just over seven-and-a-half minutes defending inside their own 20-metre zone and were forced into five goal-line drop-outs as well, yet Josh Simm’s 71st-minute try was the only time their line was breached by the Tigers.

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Rhinos head coach Rohan Smith is eager to see that sort of defensive fortitude on a regular basis and knows his side will need to show it if they are to overcome the Wolves at AMT Headingley and keep in touch with the top two in Super League

“It reinforces we can do it,” Smith said in his pre-match press conference. “We’ve had tries scored at times from close range from some kick deflections and some barge, lack of concentration at times, but overall, we’ve been difficult to break down throughout the season.

“That doesn’t really count for anything Friday, we’ve got to start again with the same sort of mentality and intent to be difficult to break down and get that complimentary game going where our attack is flowing.

“That helps our defence, and then our defence does well and helps our attack.”

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Highlights of Leeds Rhinos’ victory over Castleford Tigers in the Betfred Super League’s Rivals Round

Both Leeds and Warrington have won four and lost two in Super League so far this season, although the Wolves sit ahead of Friday’s hosts on points difference, thanks in no small part to being the highest point scorers in the competition going into Round 7, with 180 in six games.

Burgess will have to make do without influential forward Paul Vaughan, suspended following the defeat to Catalans, and Zane Musgrove and Joe Philbin due to failed head injury assessments, and hooker Danny Walker is in no doubt about what to expect at Leeds.

“Hopefully fireworks – it’s going to be a good game,” Walker told Sky Sports News. “It’s two teams which have had decent starts to the year, both on the same amounts of wins and losses, so it’s certainly going to be a good game.

“We’re going there with a couple of lads banned, but as Sam rightly said it’s about the next man up and hopefully we can go there and get the job done.”

Leeds Rhinos and Warrington Wolves face off on Sky Sports Action and Main Event from 7.30pm on Friday, April 5 (8pm kick-off). Watch every match of the 2024 Betfred Super League season, including Rivals Round, Magic Weekend, the play-offs, and men’s, women’s and wheelchair Grand Finals, live on Sky Sports.

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