November 24, 2020

Saturday’s Super League talking points

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Watch Saturday’s Super League double-header at the Totally Wicked Stadium live on Sky Sports Arena. Wakefield Trinity face Catalans Dragons at 4.15pm followed by Huddersfield Giants vs Warrington Wolves at 6.30pm.

Last Updated: 14/08/20 1:10pm

Catalans Dragons will not be subject to the 14-day quarantine for arrivals from France Catalans Dragons will not be subject to the 14-day quarantine for arrivals from France

Catalans Dragons will not be subject to the 14-day quarantine for arrivals from France

We look at the talking points and squad news for Saturday’s two Super League games at Totally Wicked Stadium, which see Wakefield Trinity face Catalans Dragons and Huddersfield Giants take on Warrington Wolves…

Catalans clear for UK matches

It has been a week of disruption for Super League, with late changes to this weekend’s fixtures following the positive coronavirus tests at Hull FC.

Catalans Dragons are one of the teams affected by that as they will now be facing Wakefield Trinity on Saturday instead of Salford Red Devils, whose squad were put into self-isolation as a precaution as well.

Wakefield Trinity vs Catalans Dragons

August 15, 2020, 4:00pm

Live on

Super League’s French side were hit with further disruption on Thursday evening when the UK government announced all arrivals from France would have to enter quarantine for 14 days from 4am on Saturday.

The Dragons have an elite sport exemption, which means they can continue with their routine travelling in and out of this country on game-day.

However, they must now head straight to the match venue rather than going to a hotel first, which means they will arrive at Totally Wicked Stadium at around Midday to prepare for their 4.15pm kick-off with Wakefield.

Catalans head coach Steve McNamara does at least have Michael McIlorum available for selection again after suffering a concussion in the defeat to St Helens, with the short turnaround between that match and the clash with Castleford Tigers meaning he was unable to feature then due to head injury protocols.

“Michael was really unfortunate,” McNamara said. “We had a six-day turnaround and for the life of me I don’t know why we didn’t play on Sunday.

“There were four other teams who hadn’t played for five months, and they were getting an extra day…whereas we had a turnaround in six days with a couple of flights.

“That was difficult for us, but it also ruled out anyone with a concussion from game one. Michael McIlorum is fine, but he couldn’t play because of the regulations.”

McNamara was, however, delighted with the performance which saw Catalans fight back from 14 points down in the first half to defeat the Tigers 40-14. He also has Sam Tomkins back from suspension and David Mead fit again for the match against Wakefield.

Wakefield vs Catalans key stats

  • Trinity’s Ryan Hampshire has a 90 per cent success rate from kicks at goal so far this season
  • Catalans have conceded the fewest penalties of any team in Super League so far this year with 40

Johnstone worry for Wakefield

Along with having to make last-minute changes to prepare for facing Catalans rather than St Helens this weekend, Trinity head coach Chris Chester is facing the prospect of being without Tom Johnstone for up to six weeks.

Johnstone scored a spectacular try in last Sunday’s agonising 23-22 defeat to Wigan Warriors, but Chester revealed afterwards the 25-year-old had done so despite suffering an elbow injury in the match.

That has now sidelined Johnstone, although the positive news is he may not require surgery on it as he did with knee injuries in 2017 and 2019.

“We’re hopeful it doesn’t require surgery and if that’s the case then a lot is determined on Tom’s pain threshold, and we’re looking at four to six weeks,” Chester said.

“The strapping he had in place meant he couldn’t bend it in the game. He took his try fantastically well and managed to get through the game, but we’re quite hopeful it shouldn’t require any kind of surgery.”

Lee Kershaw and Jack Croft both come into the 21-man squad to give Chester options out wide though, while Jordy Crowther, Joe Westerman, Matty Ashurst and Ryan Hampshire are called into the side as well.

Chester is keen to build on the positives he took from Trinity’s display against high-flying Wigan last week too.

“We showed when we move the ball around we’re a hard team to beat,” Chester said. “There was very little to choose between the teams.”

Wakefield vs Catalans Super League head-to-head

  • Catalans W17 Wakefield W18

Woolford wants RFL to take the lead

Huddersfield’s opponents for this weekend remain unchanged, although their match against Warrington will now be played at 6.30pm on Saturday.

However, Giants head coach Simon Woolford has called on rugby league’s governing body to toughen up the sport’s biosecurity protocols following the postponements and re-arrangements caused by the positive coronavirus tests at Hull FC.

The Australian believes an approach along the lines of the strict rules in place in the NRL would prevent a situation like this arising again, although he acknowledged there was no fault on the part of Hull FC or their players.

“It’s an unfortunate one and I don’t think there’s any real knowledge yet on where it came from,” Woolford said.

Huddersfield Giants vs Warrington Wolves

August 15, 2020, 6:30pm

Live on

“It’s been left up to individual clubs. Our club’s doing a fantastic job and our players get driven mad by the protocols but it’s all about keeping us safe.

“I just think there’d be a lot more buy-in from the players and clubs if the RFL had a stricter protocol on what the do’s and don’ts for players and expectations of players were outside of their footy commitments.”

On the playing side, Huddersfield come into the clash with Warrington on the back of a week off following their 27-26 defeat to Leeds Rhinos on the first weekend of Super League’s restart, where they let slip a commanding lead with 15 minutes to go before losing in golden point extra time.

The good news for the Giants is they have winger Jermaine McGillvary available again after he was rested for the clash with Leeds as a precautionary measure after suffering slight back and hamstring issues.

However, they will be without influential half-back Lee Gaskell – who is just one game away from making his 200th career appearance – and the 32-year-old McGillvary wants to see the club’s youngsters step up to the plate against the Wolves.

“It’s the story of our season the last couple of years – key players getting injured – but it’s time for one of the younger lads to stand up now and be counted,” McGillvary told The Yorkshire Post.

“We’ve got Olly Russell and Tom Holmes who are both fighting for that spot and they both deserve a shot. It’s come in difficult circumstances but it’s their time to shine now whoever gets it.”

Forwards battle will be key

One area to keep an eye on when Warrington face Huddersfield is the battle of the forwards, with both teams possessing some destructive players in their pack.

Huddersfield vs Warrington key stats

  • Hookers Adam O’Brien and Daryl Clark have both made 43 runs from dummy-half so far this season
  • Warrington have offloaded more times that any other team in Super League this year with 134

Huddersfield’s Matty English has won plenty of plaudits for his displays so far this year, while the Giants also have Ukuma Ta’ai adding further strength up front this week.

Warrington co-captain Chris Hill is impressed by the strength of Huddersfield’s pack and knows how important it will be to get the upper hand on their opponents.

“They’ve got a few big boys like [James] Gavet and [Suaia] Matagi who look like they’ve come back probably in better nick than when they went into the break,” Hill said.

“Huddersfield have had a week off, they’ll be ready and raring, so they’ll want to bounce back with another win.

“We know it’s going to be big battle up front and I think you’d say nine out of 10 games are won up there.”

Anthony Gelling being handed a two-match ban following last week’s win 40-10 win over Hull Kingston Rovers will mean some reshuffling in the back line for the Wolves, however.

That could open the door for rugby union convert Luther Burrell to start, although there is also the suggestion Stefan Ratchford may move into the three-quarters and Matty Ashton come in at full-back.

“With Stef, I thought it was a really polished display [against Hull KR],” head coach Steve Price said. “He came up with a number of solid try-savers and some really big plays for us.

Huddersfield vs Warrington Super League head-to-head

  • Huddersfield W18 Warrington W34
  • D1

“I’m also excited with what Matty Ashton has brought to our team in the short amount of time and how he’s come back. I’ve got one or two decisions to make, also on which way we’ll go with that centre position.”