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'I'm here to play the best': Watkins ready to face Latrell

Kallum Watkins came to the NRL to pit his skills against the very best. On Sunday the England international will be put to the ultimate test.

Watkins made his Gold Coast debut in Saturday’s 34-12 loss to the Broncos and now 80 minutes into his NRL career will line up against the Sydney Roosters - specifically Latrell Mitchell.

A patella injury will prevent Roosters winger Ryan Hall from taking on his long-time Leeds Rhinos team-mate but Watkins is well aware of the challenge before him.

A three-time World Club Challenge representative with Leeds, Watkins showed his class with some silky touches in his Titans debut but was also left behind in a rampant run by Broncos back-rower David Fifita midway through the first half.

Buoyed by how he fared physically in his first game in a month, Watkins says the prospects of facing Mitchell is why he came to Australia in the first place.

"It's another tough game for us but I didn't come over here to have a holiday. I come here to work hard and do what we need to do to get a win,” Watkins told after running for 132 metres and making 22 tackles on debut.

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"I came here to play against the best teams and the best players. I'm just glad that I'm here and glad that I've got the first game out of the way.

"After the first 15 or 20 minutes I was blowing pretty hard but I thought that would happen anyway because I haven't been playing for a long time. After that I felt really good fitness-wise.

"I felt I did all right and pulled up good. I always want to get better and that's for me to do to do that and get this team going."

Watkins shapes as an important figure in the rebuild of the Titans which will gather momentum this week when Justin Holbrook is unveiled as the club's new coach.

With a 62 per cent win rate across 250 games for Leeds over more than a decade, Watkins is accustomed to winning and knows what it takes to achieve it.

Senior leadership is in short supply at the Titans and Watkins has already drawn praise from coach Craig Hodges for the influence the 28-year-old is having at training.

"I was pleased to see some of the stuff that he did during the game but the stuff that he brings Monday to Friday, there is some real class about him," Hodges said.

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"He’s got plenty of experience and you can tell he knows his way around a football team and a football field."

A noted try-scorer in Super League with 226 four-pointers from 321 games, Hall is yet to open his account in the NRL in six starts.

The knee injury suffered by Hall will give Watkins the opportunity to win that race in the coming two weeks but he is adamant Hall will be quick to cross the stripe once he is back on the field.

"He's playing in a really good team there and he'll get over the line quite a few times when the time comes,” said Watkins, who scored 131 tries for Leeds.

"I think he's playing really well. He's getting involved, he's carrying it really strong and he looks fitter."

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As for his first impression of the style of play in the NRL, Watkins conceded getting his defence up to speed would be paramount in the final six weeks of the season.

"It's a lot more structured and more defensive-based as well. You have to be prepared to get in the grind and work hard for your opportunities," he said.

"I just thought it was a lot more intense and a lot quicker.

"It's tough because the guys have been doing it tough this year, the results haven't been going their way, but for us it's just concentrating on the next game and getting better as a team.

"That's what we need to do in these next few weeks.”

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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