Leeds Rhinos vs Warrington Wolves
The 21st season of Super League kicks-off with the treble winning champions Leeds Rhinos hosting Warrington Wolves at Headingley Stadium.
Brian McDermott and his Leeds side face the unenviable task of trying to replicate last season’s heroics which saw them lift the Challenge Cup, the League Leader’s Shield and the Grand Final trophy.
The departures of club stalwarts Kevin Sinfield, Jamie Peacock and Kylie Leuluai have left the club with a gaping chasm both in terms of quality and experience. To fill the void the club have moved to bring in Anthony Mullally, Jordan Baldwinson, Keith Galloway, Beau Falloon and Brett Ferres.
McDermott has named his first 19-man squad of the season which includes Falloon, despite the hooker suffering a broken toe just prior to their final preparation match. Elsewhere there could be competitive debuts for new signings Brett Ferres and Keith Galloway and there is also a place for Liam Sutcliffe who is back in action following a serious knee injury.
Warrington Wolves will be hoping to better their disappointing sixth-place finish and head coach Tony Smith has recruited well ahead of the new season.
Coming into the club are former Hull FC duo Joe Westerman and Tom Lineham along with veteran Kurt Gidley who played 236 NRL matches for Newcastle Knights as well as 24 representative fixtures. Jack Hughes, Jordan Cox, Ryan Bailey, Mitchell Dodds and Benjamin Julien complete the additions.
Six of their summer recruits have been named in the 19-man squad but there is no place for Stefan Ratchford, Ben Harrison, Ben Evans and Ryan Atkins, with the latter picking up an elbow injury in training. Of their new signings Dodds and Bailey miss out through injury in the new look Warrington side.
Leeds Rhinos: Carl Ablett, Tom Briscoe, Rob Burrow, Adam Cuthbertson, Brett Delaney, Beau Falloon, Brett Ferres, Keith Galloway, Mitch Garbutt, Ryan Hall, Zak Hardaker, Jimmy Keinhorst, Jordan Lilley, Danny McGuire (c), Joel Moon, Brad Singleton, Liam Sutcliffe, Josh Walters, Kallum Watkins.
Warrington Wolves: Daryl Clark, Jordan Cox, Ben Currie, Brad Dwyer, Rhys Evans, Kurt Gidley, Chris Hill, Jack Hughes, Benjamin Jullien, George King, Tom Lineham, Kevin Penny, Joe Philbin, Matty Russell, Chris Sandow, Ashton Sims, Joe Westerman, Ben Westwood, Gary Wheeler.
Prediction – Leeds Rhinos by 14
Published on February 03 2016 for Rugby AM.
Hull FC vs Salford Red Devils
Hull FC will be looking to crack the top six this campaign and begin with a home test against Salford Red Devils at the KC Stadium.
The Airlie Birds enjoyed a prosperous pre-season beating Doncaster 46-12 before crushing their cross-city rivals Hull KR 60-20 – running in ten tries in the process.
The Black and Whites will field a similar team to the one that started the fixture against Hull KR with Scott Taylor coming up against his former loan side. Baring no late injures in their camp there should be Super League debuts for Frank Pritchard, Carlos Tuimavave, Mahe Fonua and Sika Manu.
Lee Radford has named Fetuli Talanoa in his squad despite the winger playing no part in pre-season but club captain Gareth Ellis will have to wait for his return as he continues his recovery from an Achilles injury suffered last year.
Salford Red Devils have continued their vast recruitment drive under owner Marwan Koukash with no less than thirteen new faces joining the club. Their most notable arrivals being the loan signing of Justin Carney along with Daniel Vidot from Brisbane Broncos and Josh Jones, who has cross codes once again from Exeter Chiefs.
The Red Devils recorded two victories in their build-up to the new season beating Rochdale Hornets 44-6 before cruising to a 32-16 victory over Wigan Warriors in an impressive manner.
Head Coach Ian Watson has named his side which will take to the field and it includes ten new recruits the likes of Justin Carney, Mark Flanagan, Josh Jones, Phil Joseph, Craig Kopczak, Rob Lui, and Ben Murdoch-Masila.
Hull FC: Bowden, Fonua, Green, Houghton, Logan, Manu, Minichiello, Paleaaesina, Pritchard, Pryce, Shaul, Sneyd, Talanoa, Taylor, Thompson, Tuimavave, Washbrook, Watts, Yeaman.
Salford Red Devils: Carney, Dobson, Evalds, Flanagan, G Griffin, J Griffin, Jones, Joseph, Kopczak, Krasniqi, Lannon, Lee, Lui, Murdoch-Masila, O’Brien, Sarsfield, Sa’u, Tomkins, Walne.
Predication – Hull FC by 16
Published on February 04 2016 for Rugby AM.
St Helens vs Huddersfield Giants
In arguably the game of the opening round Huddersfield Giants travel to Langtree Park to take on St Helens with both sides eager to get off to winning starts.
Both managers have sought to add quality rather than quantity with four new signings joining their respective ranks.
St Helens have signed Jack Owens, Theo Fages, Dominique Peyroux along with Lama Tasi to replace the departing Mose Masoe in a like-for-like move.
Huddersfield meanwhile, have lost influential second-row forward Brett Ferres but brought in Ryan Hinchliffe and Sam Rapira from the NRL whilst adding Daniel Smith and Larne Patrick from closer to home.
All four signing have been named in Keiron Cunningham’s squad whilst the head coach has also selected Adam Swift and Alex Walmsley with the latter not featuring in pre-season.
The Giants enjoyed two good warm-up games beating Hull KR 38-6 away from home before beating Catalans Dragons 26-16 at the John Smith’s Stadium.
Paul Anderson has a trio of players unavailable through injury the likes of Craig Huby, Luke Robinson and Kyle Wood but all of his new signings have been named in the 19-man squad.
St Helens: 2. Tommy Makinson, 3. Jordan Turner, 4. Mark Percival, 5. Adam Swift, 7. Luke Walsh, 8. Alex Walmsley, 9. James Roby, 10. Kyle Amor, 11. Atelea Vea, 12. Jon Wilkin, 13. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, 14. Lama Tasi, 15. Greg Richards, 16. Andre Savelio, 17. Luke Thompson, 18. Dominique Peyroux, 19. Theo Fages, 20. Joe Greenwood, 22. Jack Owens.
Huddersfield: 1. Scott Grix, 2. Jermaine McGillvary, 3. Leroy Cudjoe, 4. Joe Wardle, 5. Aaron Murphy, 6. Danny Brough, 7. Jamie Ellis, 8. Eorl Crabtree, 9. Ryan Hinchcliffe, 12. Michael Lawrence, 13. Larne Patrick, 14. Daniel Smith, 16. Sam Rapira, 17. Ukuma Ta’ai, 18. Jake Connor, 19. Josh Johnson, 20. Kruise Leeming, 21. Nathan Mason, 22. Oliver Roberts.
Prediction – St Helens by 10
Published on February 04 2016 for Rugby AM.
Wigan Warriors vs Catalans Dragons
Wigan Warriors open their Super League campaign at the DW Stadium against Catalan Dragons without their star signing Sam Tomkins.
Shaun Wane has largely kept faith with his 2015 squad which reached the Grand Final but ultimately lost to Leeds Rhinos. The head coach has added to his ranks Willie Isa whilst reacquiring their poster boy Sam Tomkins who was allowed early release from his New Zealand Warriors contract.
Shaun Wane revealed in the press conference that Joel Tomkins will be out for approximately six weeks with a knee injury picked up in the Salford friendly which also announcing Lewis Tierney will start in the full-back position. Isa could take his place in the team after being named in the squad to take on the French outfit.
Wane is also once again able to call upon Dan Sarginson and he could make his first appearance in seven months with his last game being back in July.
Catalans will need to eliminate their away day blues from the previous campaign which saw them win only twice at Wakefield Wildcats and Hull FC in the Super 8s.
The Dragons lost a number of key players in the build-up to the new season with Elliott Whitehead, Benjamin Garcia, Ian Henderson, Zeb Taia, Michael Oldfield, Scott Dureau and Willie Tonga all leaving for pastures new.
However despite their departures the club have bolstered their ranks with Pat Richards, Richie Meyler, David Taylor, Paul Aiton, Justin Horo, Jodie Broughton and Glenn Stewart.
The Dragons, if they can sort out their away form, could be a real force to contend with this season but the club will be without Remi Casty, Jodie Broughton and Thomas Bosc for their trip to Wigan.
Myler, Aiton, Stewart, Horo, Taylor have all been named and should make their debuts for the club along with Richards who set to face his former club.
Wigan: Bateman, Charnley, Clubb, Farrell, Flower, Gelling, Gildart, Isa, Manfredi, McIlorum, Mossop, O’Loughlin, Powell, Sarginson, Smith, Sutton, Tautai, Tierney, Williams.
Catalans: Gigot, Inu, Duport, Richards, Carney, Myler, Anderson, Aiton, Stewart, Horo, Baitieri, Taylor, Bousquet, Pelissier, Mounis, Elima, Yaha, Maria, Robin.
Prediction – Wigan Warriors by 18
Published on February 04 2016 for Rugby AM.
Hull KR vs Castleford Tigers
Hull Kingston Rovers will be looking to put a disappointing pre-season behind them when they take on Castleford Tigers on Sunday at the KC Lightstream Stadium.
The Red Devils were beaten 38-6 on home soil by Huddersfield Giants in Dave Hodgson’s testimonial match before travelling the short distance to the KC Stadium to take on rivals Hull FC in the usual “friendly” but were thumped 60-20.
Having conceding nearing 100 points in two pre-season games the alarm bells will have been ringing amongst the KR faithful. Equally as troubling was the news that Kevin Larroyer and Shaun Lunt will be missing the opening months of the season through injury.
The Robins will also be without influential half-back Terry Campese as he continues his road to recovery after his ACL injury last term.
Hull KR head coach Chris Chester has named his 19-man squad but there is no place for Adam Walker despite a club statement saying he was available for selection, after news broke during the week concerning his pending court case over child sex offences.
New signings Robbie Mulhern, Iain Thornley, Chris Clarkson and Thomas Minns are included with the latter shaking off a dead leg.
Castleford Tigers have kept the nucleus of their side together with only fringe players leaving ahead of the new season, with the exception of Justin Carney who left in controversial circumstances.
Coming off the back of a three preparation games in which the Tigers beat York City Knights and Wakefield Wildcats. The club tasted defeat in their last game losing 26-8 to Bradford Bulls, a loss which also saw the game abandoned towards the end after Ash Robson suffering a dislocated knee cap which will rule him out for the majority of the season.
Daryl Powell has named three of his new recruits for their curtain raiser with the Robins with Ben Crooks, Joel Monaghan and Wigan loanee Ryan Hampshire expected to make competitive debuts.
Hull KR: Sio, Mantellato, Thornley, Dixon, Kelly, Allgood, Blair, Horne, Clarkson, Donaldson, Green, Tilse, Cockayne, Boudebza, Greenwood, Minns, Marsh, Lawler, Mulhern.
Castleford Tigers: Boyle, Cook, Crooks, Dorn, Gale, Hampshire, Holmes, Jewitt, McMeeken, McShane, Maher, Millington, Milner, Moors, Monaghan, Roberts, Shenton, Solomona, Webster
Prediction – Castleford Tigers by 14
Published on February 06 2016 for Rugby AM.
Wakefield Wildcats vs Widnes Vikings
Wakefield Wildcats will be eager to avoid playing in the “Million Pound Game” a second time around and open their season with a home clash with Widnes Vikings on Sunday.
The Wildcats maintained their top flight status by virtue of beating Bradford Bulls 24-16 at Belle Vue under the guidance of Brian Smith.
The Wildcats have had a large turnaround in personnel with fifteen players departing and twelve players joining in permanent switches. Smith has swooped to aquire the signatures of Bill Tupou, Anthony Tupou and Tinirau Arona from the NRL and added Ben Jones-Bishop, Liam Finn and Jason Walton to name but a few of their new recruits from the English game.
The traditional Boxing Day match between Wakefield and Leeds saw the Wildcats prevail 14-6 before the club beat Championship side Featherstone Rovers – with Craig Hall scoring near the death to make it 22-18. Their penultimate friendly saw them lose 32-6 against close rivals Castleford Tigers before a youthful squad were narrowly beaten 32-20 against Newcastle Yowies.
Head Coach Brian Smith has named seven new signings who could make their Super League debuts in a Wildcats shirt.
Widnes narrowly missed out on a top eight spot finishing the regular season a point behind Catalans Dragons and will need to be picking up maximum points against opposition like Wakefield.
Widnes have trimmed their playing squad seeing also twelve players depart but manager Denis Betts has brought in Chris Bridge, Setaimata Sa, Corey Thompson, Chris Houston, Sam Brooks and Connor Farrell on loan from Wigan Warriors.
The Vikings sent a youthful looking team up North to take on Newcastle Thunder and prevailed 34-8 at Kingston Park. A late Luke Ambler try denied Widnes their second win of pre-season after an 18-18 draw against Championship side Halifax before completing their preparations with a win over St Helens in the Karalius Cup.
Denis Betts has named all but one of his new signings with Sam Brooks missing out on the initial 19-man squad.
Wakefield Team: Scott Anderson, Chris Annakin, Tinirau Arona, Joe Arundel, Matty Ashurst, Anthony England, Liam Finn, Stuart Howarth, Ben Jones-Bishop, Tom Johnstone, Danny Kirmond, Reece Lyne, Jacob Miller, Jonny Molloy, Nick Scuton, Mickey Sio, Anthony Tupou, Bill Tupou, Jason Walton
Widnes Team: Patrick Ah Van, Chris Bridge, Kevin Brown, Hep Cahill, Chris Dean, Gil Dudson, Connor Farrell, Rhys Hanbury, Aaron Heremaia, Chris Houston, Macgraff Leuluai, Manase Manuokafoa, Stefan Marsh, Joe Mellor, Eamon O’Carroll, Charly Runciman, Setaimata Sa, Corey Thompson, Lloyd White
Prediction – Widnes Vikings by 10
Published on February 06 2016 for Rugby AM.