Super League Round 23 Preview
Hull FC vs Wigan Warriors
Wigan will be looking to make it three wins on the bounce when they travel to East Yorkshire to take on Hull FC at the KC Stadium on Thursday.
The Warriors could climb up to second in the table momentarily ahead of St Helens playing Hull Kingston Rovers on Friday. Whilst two points for Hull FC could see them jump a further place into sixth.
Heading into this final game of the regular season before the Super 8s, Hull FC pose a real threat to Wigan with the club on the back of three straight wins – most recently the 22-12 victory over their nearby rivals Hull KR.
Head coach Lee Radford has made two changes to his 19-man squad with Gareth Ellis and Leon Pryce being replaced by Mickey Paea and Jamie Shaul. Ellis, whose season is over, suffered a torn Achilles against Hull KR and faces six months out whilst Leon Pryce picked up a shoulder injury in the same game.
Shaun Wane makes just the one change from their narrow 20-10 win over Widnes Vikings with Matty Bowen returning to replace Larne Patrick who is recovering from concussion.
Wigan Warriors by 10
St Helens vs Hull Kingston Rovers
St Helens are still in the hunt for top sport ahead of the middle 8’s but must overcome Hull Kingston Rovers on Friday night at Langtree Park.
A win for Saints would see them climb to the top of the table and put the pressure on Leeds who would then have to beat Catalans Dragons to finish first. For Chris Chester’s side they look resigned to the Middle 8s but a 72 point swing could see them finish in the top-eight in favour of Catalans.
St Helens pose a formidable test for Rovers and with the club on the back of two consecutive wins over Huddersfield Giants and Warrington Wolves are building up some form ahead of the split.
Rovers, meanwhile have contrasting fortunes of late and have recorded defeats over Huddersfield, Salford Red Devils and Hull FC.
St Helens given their circumstances are likely to field a full strength side but will be without Jon Wilkin who has undergone surgery on his thumb. Coming into the squad is Atelea Vea who has recovered from a shoulder injury to return to the side.
Hull KR may rest some of their senior players with one eye on their Challenge Cup semi-final against Warrington. That said, recent signing Dane Chisholm should make his debut for the club following his arrival from Canterbury Bulldogs. The side will also be with Kevin Larroyer who submitted an early guilty plea to his Grade B shoulder charge against Hull.
St Helens by 18
Castleford Tigers vs Warrington Wolves
Castleford Tigers will be wanting to end the regular season on a high when they take on Warrington Wolves on Sunday.
A win for the Tigers could see them finish in the top four if Huddersfield fail to beat Wakefield on the same day. The two points for Warrington would see them consolidate their sixth placed finish but a defeat could see them drop seventh.
Cas returned to their free scoring selves when they beat Wakefield at Belle Vue 58-20 with Justin Carney scoring four times in the process.
Meanwhile Warrington suffered a 20-14 loss after Jordan Turner’s late try condemned them to defeat in the dying embers of the game.
Daryl Powell could be without try scoring sensation Denny Solomon who limped off during their game last round with an ankle injury. The Tigers may exercise the option to recall James Clare or Michael Channing from their spells at dual-registration club York City Knights but must do so before the Friday transfer deadline.
Parramatta Ells half-back Chris Sandow has joined the Wolves after his release from the NRL club. It’s not a surprise after coach Tony Smith revealed he was looking at bringing in another player and it appears he has got his man. This fixture will come too soon for Sandow with his arrive expected in the middle of next week.
The Wolves may take this opportunity to rest player ahead of their Challenge Cup semi-final so don’t be surprised to see a number of changes made.
Castleford Tigers by 14
Huddersfield Giants vs Wakefield Trinity Wildcats
Huddersfield Giants will be looking to maintain their current fourth place position when they take on Wakefield Trinity Wildcats.
The Giants became on the second side to beat Catalans Dragons on home soil when they beat the French side 14-12 thanks to a Jermaine McGillvary brace. Wakefield will head into the Middle 8s looking to maintain their Super League status but will want to build some momentum heading into the league divide. Warrington brushed aside the Wildcats 58-20 last weekend and will want to address matters sooner rather than later.
Paul Anderson may opt to rotate his squad with their Super 8 status secured and use this opportunity to blood in some of his younger players. Hooker Kyle Wood will miss the rest of the season however, after the 26-year-old suffered a broken foot in their win over Catalans.
Wakefield are forced into making at least one change with the news that Kevin Locke may be out for the rest of the season. Brian Smith told the media: “It’s not looking good, almost certainly season ending. It’s serious, sort of chest and upper arm, it’s to do with his pectoral and maybe ligaments.”
Making his debut for the Wildcats will be Bill Tupou who has joined the club for the remainder of the season from Canberra Raiders. The 25-year-old New Zealand international can adopt the centre or wing spot. There could also be a place in the 19-man squad for Lee Smith who has returned to the club on a deal to the end of the season.
Huddersfield Giants by 16
Leeds Rhinos vs Catalans Dragons
Leeds Rhinos can secure top spot ahead of the middle 8’s with victory over Catalans Dragons in front of their home support at Headingley.
The club, could go into this fixture in second place, but know two points would see them head back to the top.
Leeds put the disappointment of losing 26-24 to Wigan by demolishing Salford Red Devils 70-6 in a devastating show of finishing. Whilst Catalans are currently on a four game losing run in cup and league action following their slender 14-12 defeat to Huddersfield.
Brian McDermott, who rested both Kevin Sinfield and Jamie Peacock, may bring them back the veteran duo into the squad for this final round of the season.
Laurent Frayassinous lost another player to injury in club captain Remi Casty, the forward will be out for the rest of the season after rupturing ligaments on his right knee and will undergo surgery next month.
Dean Whitehead’s head injury sustained in the third minute of their 14-12 loss to Huddersfield not as bad as first feared but he may still be rested as a precaution.
Leeds Rhinos by 18
Widnes Vikings vs Salford Red Devils
Salford Red Devils could leapfrog Widnes Vikings when the two sides go head to head on Sunday at the Select Security Stadium.
The result mean seem meaningless in the context of the Super League season but come the Middles 8s the higher you finish the more home games you have to your advantage.
That said Widnes arrive back on home soil after a good performance against Wigan Warriors going down 20-10 whilst Salford will want a response following their 70-6 drubbing at the hand of Leeds Rhinos.
The Vikings signed St George-Illawarra Dragons centre Charly Runciman and he may make his debut for the club providing all the necessary paperwork is completed in time. If he doesn’t have his visa in time Denis Betts will likely field an unchanged team.
Salford hinted mid-week that they have a few players returning with one potentially being influential half-back Rangi Chase.
Widnes by 6
Published on July 23 2015 for Rugby AM.