Team news and perspectives ahead of Friday’s non-televised Super League games since the play-off and relegation battles climax.
Richard Agar considers Leeds Rhinos have improvements to make after all but sealing their place in Super League for 2020.
Last Sunday’s 36-10 win away to London Broncos signifies the Rhinos are just four points clear at the side using two matches of the regular season having a much superior points gap to the sides near the foot of this table and staying.
Head coach Agar is in no doubt a display can be produced by his side when Salford Red Devils and Headingley on Friday evening see, but is happy they’ve got themselves into a position that is far more secure.
« Performance-wise there is a whole lot to improve , but dedication and defensive effort I thought was fantastic, » Agar said.
« We always said pulling it together was not going to become an overnight fix, two or three chances missed and everyone else has won matches to keep it a struggle.
« I know mathematically we are not secure but it’s a decent old swing with just two games and two other teams fighting each other. »
Agar has appointed an squad to the match final Thursday after overcoming Warrington Wolves 22-6 with Salford, who are really on a club-record run of six wins in Super League.
Red Devils head coach Ian Watson attracts George Griffin straight into the group following his return from injury and Josh Wood is recalled to the 19.
Salford have been given a boost with the news mid-season sponsor Josh Johnson has agreed a contract with the team for 2020.
« Josh has already added a bit of grit into our pack and bought into the work ethic of the group, » Watson said.
« We had to move quickly to secure his services for next year, following his vibrant performances caught the eyes of other Super League clubs.
« He is pleased to be staying with us and I’m sure he will continue to improve and be a precious signing. »
Leeds Rhinos 19-man team: Jack Walker, Konrad Hurrell, Ash Handley, Richie Myler, Adam Cuthbertson, Trent Merrin, Brad Dwyer, Liam Sutcliffe, Brett Ferres, Mikolaj Oledzki, Jamie Jones-Buchanan, Cameron Smith, Luke Briscoe, James Donaldson, Harry Newman, Ava Seumanufagai, Shaun Lunt, Robert Lui, Rhyse Martin
Salford Red Devils 19-man squad: Niall Evalds, Kris Welham, Jake Bibby, Lee Mossop, Josh Wood, Gil Dudson, Josh Jones, George Griffin, Mark Flanagan, Joey Lussick, Adam Walker, Greg Burke, Tyrone McCarthy, Logan Tomkins, Ken Sio, Krisnan Inu, Tui Lolohea, Jackson Hastings, Josh Johnson
Completing an unbeaten season is your aim for St Helens on Friday night if they welcome Huddersfield Giants to Completely Wicked Stadium.
The League Leaders’ Shield winners’ three defeats throughout the Super League regular season have all come on the street, with their home floor showing something of a fortress.
Saints have not finished an abysmal stretch at home since 2002, when they went on to win Grand Final, also head coach Justin Holbrook knows his side must be on their guard against a Giants side who eased their relegation fears with a 22-12 win away to Hull FC a week.
« We’ve been terrific there each week this year and we want to maintain that, » Holbrook said. « We have got to play well to beat Huddersfield on Friday.
« This was a fantastic win for them last week. They’re not in a excellent spot in the desk, but they’ve shown to go and win at Hull they have got a side »
After missing last Friday’s 4-0 win at home dominique Peyroux and current Great Britain call-up Lachlan Coote both reunite.
Giants head coach Simon Woolford is due to injury, so Tom Holmes comes back in their squad in his or her place. Adam Walne replaces Aaron Murphy .
Though the win over Hull place them in a stronger position heading into the final two games of the regular season huddersfield are not protected from the threat of relegation.
« It depends on additional games and other results, but it’s certainly helped our cause, » Woolford said. « It has been a challenging year for numerous reasons and those few wins are few and far between.
« We will not be shutting up shop today, there’s still a large task to do and we wish to make sure we finish the seasons really well. »
St Helens 19-man group: Jonny Lomax, Tommy Makinson, Kevin Naiqama, Mark Percival, Regan Grace, Theo Fages, Danny Richardson, Alex Walmsley, James Roby, Luke Thompson, Zeb Taia, Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Morgan Knowles, Kyle Amor, Dominique Peyroux, Jack Ashworth, James Bentley, Lachlan Coote, Matty Costello
Huddersfield Giants 19-man team: Darnell McIntosh, Jermaine McGillvary, Lee Gaskell, Paul Clough, Kruise Leeming, Suaia Matagi, Alex Mellor, Michael Lawrence, Adam O’Brien, Ukuma Ta’ai, Jake Wardle, Tom Holmes, Adam Walne, Sebastine Ikahihifo, Sam Hewitt, Louis Senior, Jon Luke Kirby, Oliver Wilson, Chester Butler
Since they plan to end their losing run to Wakefield Trinity on Friday, blake Austin is set to earn a return for Warrington Wolves.
Austin has been ruled out for around a month with an ankle ligament injury suffered in the defeat to Catalans Dragons early in August and overlooked the Wolves’ Challenge Cup final win.
However he’s just one of five players making a return to Steve Price team that were not involved in Thursday’s defeat to fellow play-off contenders Salford.
Wakefield head into the match at the Halliwell Jones Stadium both having lost both of the games against Warrington far this season and on the rear of a defeat to Wigan Warriors last Sunday.
Trinity head coach Chris Chester has injury concerns to compete as well, using a trio of players all missing because of injuries suffered in the loss to Wigan.
Bill Tupou chris Annakin and James Batchelor all ruled out, with Titus Gwaze returning into the 19-man squad in their places, Jordy Crowther and George King, and Chester is concerned the three could miss the two of Wakefield games.
« It appears like it, » Chester said. « We have got a few cover in Joe Arundel and George King and Jordy Crowther, so we’ve pretty much got that covered »
Warrington Wolves 19-man squad: Sitaleki Akauola, Blake Austin, Josh Charnley, Daryl Clark, Jason Clark, Mike Cooper, Ben Currie, Bryson Goodwin, Chris Hill, Toby King, Tom Lineham, Harvey Livett, Jake Mamo, Ben Murdoch-Masila, Declan Patton, Joe Philbin, Stefan Ratchford, Matty Smith, Lama Tasi
Wakefield Trinity 19-man team: Joe Arundell, Danny Brough, Jordy Crowther, Anthony England, Morgan Escare, Chris Green, Titus Gwaze, Ryan Hampshire, Ben Jones-Bishop, Lee Kershaw, George King, Danny Kirmond, Craig Kopczak, Reece Lyne, Jacob Miller, Tyler Randell, Adam Tangata, Kelepi Tanginoa, Kyle Wood
Adrian Lam understands there is lots of work for Wigan Warriors to perform as they aim to seal second place.
Last Sunday’s success away to Wakefield watched the champions move before Warrington at the table along with a win in the home to Catalans Dragons on Friday would see them have towards procuring that place.
However, Lam, who has attracted Harry Smith in for Amir Bourouh in the only change for his 19-man squad, warned his players they cannot afford to think the task is currently done.
« We’ve got a pretty tough two matches coming in Catalans and Castleford in the home, therefore a lot of work to do, but I am really pleased for the group so far, » Lam said.
« We’ve used particular words at specific times of the year, and optimism and perception are those we are pushing aggressively in the moment.
« As a group, if we get down to a tight match, they feel in each other and if things get tight in the game over the next couple of weeks, I have total confidence we can find the result we deserve. »
Wigan conquer against Catalans 42-0 about the side’s last visit to the DW Stadium in March, but the Dragons secured a unforgettable 33-16 win in the match at Barcelona’s Nou Camp in May.
Steve McNamara’s men visit Wigan in tatters following last Saturday defeat to Hull Kingston Rovers – .
The Perpignan-based outfit do, however, have Sam Tomkins available to confront his former club and also Alrix da Costa yields to the 19. Not involved are Ben Garcia, Jodie Broughton, David Mead, Tony Gigot, Fouad Yaha, Sam Moa and Remi Casty.
Wigan Warriors 19-man squad: Joe Burgess, Liam Byrne, Tony Clubb, Liam Farrell, Bevan French, Oliver Gildart, Joe Greenwood, Chris Hankinson, Zak Hardaker, Willie Isa, Tommy Leuluai, Liam Marshall, Romain Navarrete, Oliver Partington, Sam Powell, Dan Sarginson, Harry Smith, Morgan Smithies, George Williams
Catalans Dragons 19-man group: Brayden Wiliame, Lewis Tierney, Samisoni Langi, Michael McIlorum, Kenny Edwards, Greg Bird, Julian Bousquet, Mickael Simon, Benjamin Julien, Matt Whitley, Alrix da Costa, Mickael Goudemand, Lambert Belmas, Lucas Albert, Antoni Maria, Jason Baitieri, Arthur Romano, Sam Kasiano, Sam Tomkins
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