Rob Burrow admits he will be nervous when he runs out for the 500th game of his career in the Betfred Super League opener at St Helens, just as he has been for the previous 499.
And the evergren Leeds half back could be giving 14 years to his opponent at the newly-named Totally Wicked Stadium, with 20-year-old Danny Richardson one of Saints coach Keiron Cunningham’s options to fill the scrum-half role made temporarily vacant by the loss of Matty Smith with a broken leg.
“I’m disappointed for Matty,” Burrow said. “He’s a great player and obviously St Helens will miss someone like Matty. I hope he gets back on his feet quickly.
“We’ve prepared for everybody. There’s Tommy Lee, obviously Theo Fages and Richardson, all quality players who are going to be really effective. It’s important we’re ready.”
Burrow is out of contract at the end of the year but is not contemplating hanging up the boots for some time yet.
“I’d love to play on,” he said. “It depends on the body, but I’d like to play as long as I can do a job for Leeds.”
Burrow was one of the shining lights during the Rhinos’ injury-ravaged season in 2016 in which the 2015 champions were forced to battle for survival after finishing outside the top eight.
But Saints coach Keiron Cunningham is expecting Leeds to be back challenging for the title this year.
“You couldn’t ask for a better start to the season,” Cunningham said. “History tells you that Leeds and Saints is always a mouth-watering clash. Both sides are more or less fit and healthy, it’s going to be entertaining.
“We’ll be doing our best to stop a really good Leeds side. You’re going to see a fit Leeds side, and the Leeds of old.”
Burrow is confident his side can avoid another annus horribilis but is holding back on any title talk.
“All we are focusing on at the moment is starting well,” he said. “It’s a big game against St Helens and that’s as far as we’re looking.
“But of course, we want to be involved in the big games, be in the finals and win trophies like we have for the past decade, so nothing has changed.”