Leeds can prove English rugby league is flourishing by winning World Club Challenge, says Stevo
Last Updated: 21/02/13 4:34pm
Stevo told Sky Sports News HD that he hopes Leeds win the World Club Challenge and prove that English rugby league is not "second rate".
The Rhinos edged the Anglo-Australian showpiece last term by beating the Manly Sea Eagles, to add to their victories in 2005 and 2008, and will fight for the trophy again on Friday evening against reigning NRL champions Melbourne Storm.
Sky Sports pundit Stevo says Leeds skipper Kevin Sinfield - and the English game - was badmouthed in the Antipodean press when he became just the fourth Englishman, after Ellery Hanley, Garry Schofield and Andy Farrell, to be awarded the Rugby League Golden Boot in 2012.
The Dewsbury-born analyst reckons Sinfield and his Rhinos cohorts can silence their doubters and continue the impressive record Super League teams hold in the World Club Challenge - but admits Melbourne are a formidable side.
"Sinfield will be a major factor," said Stevo.
"When he was awarded the Golden Boot for being the world's best player the the back pages in Australia said: 'Kevin who?' and asked how on Earth he could have won that accolade ahead of the likes of Billy Slater, Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk, who will play for Melbourne on Friday night.
"But to say 'Kevin who?' is an insult, not just to the man himself, who has led Leeds superbly to Super League titles and is the England captain, but to the English game; no apology came out and it made our game seem second rate.
"The Australians and New Zealanders have taken a giant leap forward over the last 15-20 years but slowly and surely we are getting our game right.
"And the fact we have won 12 out of the 18 World Club Challenges indicates that it won't be easy for Storm, who are albeit formidable, to win.
"I hope Leeds win and I say that not because I am a very proud Yorkshireman and Englishman, which I am, but because they have the chance to become the first club to win the World Club Challenge on four occasions.
"However, despite the fact the Rhinos will be playing at their home ground of Headingley, their kicking game is going to be good and Danny McGuire is in top form, they are up against a team that will start favourites
"It will be a rough and tough game - but thankfully there will be no shoulder charges!"