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RugbyL: One world at a time for Australia's Smith

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Australia captain Cameron Smith insists the World Cup will be the last thing on his mind when his Melbourne Storm side meet Leeds in the World Club Challenge at the Rhinos' Headingley home ground on Friday.

Smith is expected to lead the Kangaroos at the World Cup in October, with Australia facing England on the opening day, and is currently in the UK as Melbourne bid to repeat their efforts of 2010 when they beat Leeds 18-10.

That was Smith's first experience of the World Club Challenge, the 29-year-old kicking five goals in a man-of-the-match performance at Elland Road, the home of Leeds United Football Club, although Melbourne were later stripped of the title for salary cap breaches.

Smith missed the 2008 World Club Challenge, also against Leeds, along with a number of high-profile players with the Rhinos ensuring it was the Super League claiming the bragging rights for the fifth successive year.

The Rhinos defeated Manly 26-12 at Headingley, a venue which shares a stand with the cricket ground of the same name in Leeds, northern England, last year to end a run of three Australian victories.

And despite Friday's clash being played at a World Cup venue, Smith admits he is more concerned with simply winning than anything else.

"I'd be lying if I said that it wouldn't be nice to win this one early on but I won't be running out at that ground on Friday thinking about the World Cup," said Smith.

"It's not about the Aussies getting one over on the Poms before the World Cup starts, it's about going out there and playing for Melbourne Storm and if we win it's great, and it's great for the NRL (National Rugby League)," he added of a match that pits the champions of Australia against the Super League title-holders.

"It (the World Club Challenge) means a lot," Smith said of a fixture that has struggled for credibility with Australian rugby league fans.

"I think some people back home see it as a bit of a burden to come over here and think it breaks up their preparation for their season.

"But it is an important game for our club. It doesn't get any bigger than playing at Headingley, playing against the Leeds Rhinos who have been a powerhouse in the Super League competition.

"After the match, it will be a chance to look back at the guys in there because I think Leeds will have pretty good representation in the England squad.

"We can see how they play and if I can give any feedback to our coach or our selectors then I'll do that."

Leeds stand-off Danny McGuire, preparing for his sixth World Club Challenge, believes the occasion is getting bigger and better with every passing year.

"I've been lucky enough to be involved in five of these and they have all been special in their own right," said McGuire.

"Obviously there have been very different results and you remember it a lot more when you win, so I think last year was one of the best games I've been involved in.

"In terms of atmosphere and intensity and everything that came with that game it was up there with the best and I imagine it's going to be something similar on Friday.

"I think it's up there. Anytime you're involved in a final, you've got to make something of it, you've got to enjoy it and savour the moment."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130220/rugbyl-one-world-at-time-australias-smith