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Super League Round 18 Preview

Leeds Rhinos vs Castleford Tigers

The opening game of Round 18 sees table-topping Leeds Rhinos host sixth placed Castleford Tigers at Headingley Carnegie Stadium in front of the Sky cameras.

The Rhinos returned to winning ways by brushing aside Wakefield Trinity Wildcats 58-26 and will be hoping to carry that free scoring form into this fixture.

Brian McDermott welcomes back veteran forward Kylie Leuluai and centre Joel Moon – who has served his suspension. Leeds are however, still without full-back Zak Hardaker, Brett Delaney, Tom Briscoe and Mitch Achurch.

On the back of two consecutive victories, Daryl Powell makes two changes to his Castleford 19-man squad from the 30-22 win over Hull Kingston Rovers. James Clare and Michael Channing lose their places in favour of Scott Moore and Ryan Bailey – with the later facing his former club. Luke Dorn, Justin Carney, Matt Cook, Lee Jewitt and Frankie Mariano all remain on the sidelines for the Tigers.

Leeds by 12

Friday 12th June

St Helens vs Wigan Warriors

St Helens go into this derby fixture with Wigan full of confidence having risen to second in the table a mere point behind Leeds. However Keiron Cunningham will be rueing the cost of their last victory over Salford Red Devils with the news that the club’s top try scorer Tommy Makinson suffered a broken fibula.

James Roby is also included in the 19 strong squad, despite picking up a hand injury, along with Lewis Charnock and Matty Dawson. Olly Davies and Luke Thompson, who suffered a head knock, drop out of the side.

Wigan bounced back from their 58-16 humbling in the South of France against Catalans Dragons by beating Leeds Rhinos and Huddersfield Giants in recent weeks. A victory for the Warriors will see them leapfrog their rivals into second place and be within touching distance of the summit.

Shaun Wane has named an unchanged squad from the side that beat the Giants 32-18 last time out.

Wigan by 14

Saturday 13th June

Catalans Dragons vs Hull FC

Laurent Frayssinous’ Catalans Dragons will host an in-form Hull FC at the Stade Gilbert Brutus on Saturday. The French outfit will be hoping to get back to winning ways following a 22-22 draw against Huddersfield at the Magic Weekend, before succumbing to a 26-18 defeat at the Halliwell Jones Stadium against Warrington Wolves.

Frayssinous, £500 lighter having been fined for criticising a match official, has had to reshuffle his troops. Vincent Duport, Willie Tonga, Todd Carney, Michael Oldfield and Jeff Lima are all missing this game with Damien Cardace, Thomas Bosc, Gregory Mounis and Ben Garcia coming into the side.

Hull, meanwhile will look to further cement their place in the top eight after recording eight wins in the last ten games in all competitions. Head coach Lee Radford should welcome back Fetuli Talanoa and Setaimata Sa who both missed the win against Widnes Vikings with minor knocks. Warrington bound Tom Lineham misses out on personal grounds with this game too soon for Josh Bowden and Curtis Naughton who should be back the following week.

Hull FC by 10

Sunday 14th June

Huddersfield Giants vs Warrington Wolves

Locked level on 18 points apiece this fixture promises to be a real battle of attrition amongst the forward packs.

Paul Anderson welcomes back full-back Scott Grix after his one match suspension for Sunday’s home clash with Warrington but Josh Johnson joins Brett Ferres, Chris Bailey, Leroy Cudjoe and Aaron Murphy on the sidelines.

The primrose and blue of Warrington for 2016 and beyond, the Wolves will be looking for back-to-back wins after their 26-18 win over Catalans Dragons last time out.

Ben Westwood will miss this game having submitted an early guilty plea and thus gained a one match ban. Kevin Penny is also a big doubt for the game having picked in an injury playing for North Wales.

Warrington by 14

Hull KR vs Widnes Vikings

Hull Kingston Rovers face an uphill battle to reach the top eight after a poor start against Castleford Tigers ultimately cost them the two points losing 22-30. A run of three consecutive defeats sees the Robins cast four points adrift of the top eight with an inferior goal difference. This game really is a must-win for the red and whites if they are to realise their Play-Off ambitions.

Robins coach Chris Chester will be sweating on the fitness of influential half-back Terry Campese after he limped off towards the end of the their last defeat with a knee injury. The forward pack could be boosted by the return of Shaun Lunt, Graeme Horne and Adam Walker but this game could be too early for prop Dane Tilse.

Widnes sit one point outside of Catalans in ninth with a win seeing them leapfrog potentially two teams into the Play-Offs.

Kevin Brown, who was voted the Super League player of the month for May, should be fit to face the Robins having been helped from the field suffering a head injury towards the end of their defeat to Hull FC. Dennis Betts will be without back-rower Danny Galea who picked up a hand injury last Thursday. Danny Craven has been recalled from his loan spell with Championship side Halifax and could make the 19-man-squad.

Hull KR by 6

Wakefield Wildcats vs Salford Red Devils

The chances of any of these clubs making the top eight is looking ever more unlikely with each passing week but this will be a game both clubs must not lose. Wakefield will hope more time spent under new coach Brian Smith will revitalise the squad and bring about a change of fortunes after a dismal season.

Smith may have Scott Anderson at his disposal following his concussion at Magic Weekend which kept him out of their last game. Elsewhere Dean Collis has returned to Australia for personal reasons.

Salford in an attempt to entice fans to their ground have made their home fixture against Catalans will be free of charge as announced midweek by owner Marwan Koukash. The injury depleted side have a host of names on an every growing injury list. The club completed the loan signing of Logan Tomkins from Wigan and Olsi Krasniqi from Australia side Wynnham Manly-Seagulls with both likely to go straight into the squad.

Wakefield by 8

Published on June 11 2015 for Rugby AM.

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