Watch Super League’s restart live on Sky Sports this Sunday. St Helens face Catalans Dragons at 4.15pm, followed by Leeds Rhinos taking on Huddersfield Giants at 6.30pm
By Marc Bazeley
Last Updated: 01/08/20 1:32pm
Super League returns to our screens on Sunday after being suspended for 20 weeks and it all kicks off with champions St Helens taking on Catalans Dragons.
Last year’s Grand Final winners have had something of a mixed start to their title defence, but head coach Kristian Woolf is confident those issues are now behind them.
Super League’s French side, meanwhile, have won plenty of plaudits during the four matches they have played so far, and here we take a look at the stats and talking points ahead of the game…
St Helens vs Catalans Dragons
August 2, 2020, 3:30pm
State of play
Super League position: 8th.
Season so far: P5 W2 D0 L3.
Key stats: Toronto Wolfpack’s withdrawal means Saints’ 32-0 win over the Canadian side has been expunged from the records and the subsequent loss of two points has dropped them down the table ahead of the restart.
Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook is in line to make his 350th Super League appearance, while James Roby needs two tries to reach 100 in the competition.
Super League position: 5th.
Season so far: P4 W3 D0 L1.
Key stats: With this match being played behind closed doors at Headingley, it is worth pointing out Catalans’ last meeting with St Helens at a neutral venue saw them triumph 35-16 in the 2018 Challenge Cup semi-finals at the University of Bolton Stadium.
Winger Fouad Yaha had been in particularly good form for the Dragons prior to the season being suspended, scoring tries in all four of their matches so far.
Head-to-head Super League record: St Helens W20, Catalans Dragons W13.
Graham gears up for return
Lachlan Coote, Morgan Knowles and James Roby are just some of the key players St Helens were missing at various points pre-lockdown who have been named in the 21-man squad for Sunday’s clash with Catalans.
But perhaps the player Saints fans will be most excited to see is the returning James Graham, who is in line to feature after rejoining the club from NRL side St George Illawarra Dragons.
The 34-year-old will be pulling on the Red Vee for the first time since the 2011 Grand Final defeat, having re-signed following Luke Thompson’s earlier-than-expected move to Canterbury Bulldogs, and Woolf is impressed with the impact Graham has already made.
“When it first came up, I had a number of discussions with him over the phone and the thing which shone through on every conversation I had with him was how excited he was to come in and his reasoning for wanting to come in,” Woolf said.
“They were all the right reasons and it made it impossible for us not to want to make that happen. He’s come in with that same enthusiasm and he’s a terrific presence in the group, as we knew he would be.
“He’s great personality, he’s got that driven mindset in terms of what he wants to achieve and what he brings to a team.
“What I know we’ll get out of James is everything he’s got and because of that he’s going to find a bit more out of the players around him as well. That’s the biggest attraction for me in terms of bringing him here.”
Aussie duo catch the eye
Two new recruits have already shone for the Dragons in their opening matches, namely the Australian pair of James Maloney and Israel Folau.
Former international stand-off Maloney did not take long to start exerting his influence in the halves alongside his compatriot Josh Drinkwater and while Folau’s signing attracted a huge amount of controversy, the three-quarter has already proven his worth on the rugby side of things.
Joel Tomkins, who also joined the French club over the winter, explained what they have brought to the club.
“I’ve been really, really impressed with James Maloney,” Tomkins told Sky Sports. “You can see why he’s done what he has done in the game, he’s got a really good rugby brain.
“There was some controversy around Israel Folau, but the lads are just watching him open-mouthed in training sometimes at the things he can do and it’s unbelievable.
“His athletic ability is unbelievable; nobody can touch him and with those two playing on the same edge it’s a great combination – and hopefully that will be a successful combination for us.”
Head coach Steve McNamara has picked one to watch for the future in his 21-man squad for Sunday’s showdown as well.
“We’ve got some great young players here and there’s a guy called Arthur Mourgue – maybe he’ll get a shot this week – who is in around the team this week and I think he’s got a bright future,” Tomkins said.
“He’s looked really sharp around training and hopefully he can transfer that onto the pitch.”
What they say about each other
“Catalans are a class side with some really class players and while I don’t want to sound like I’m contradicting myself, because you can’t take too much from the start of the year, they were on good form on the back of some really class players.
“I expect they’re going to be a really dangerous side which is going to feature at the end of the year. That’s what we’re expecting and we’re going to have to start really well.”
– St Helens head coach Kristan Woolf on Catalans Dragons
“They’ve been the benchmark for the last couple of years, they were outstanding under [former head coach Justin] Holbrook and untouchable in some games.
“They’ve still got that in them, I know the coach is a top-class coach and it’s probably just a bit of a transition period where he’s trying to implement his own game-plan on the team. Sometimes that takes time, so this break might not have necessarily been a bad thing for them.”
– Catalans Dragons second row Joel Tomkins on St Helens