Big names return for Wolves and Dragons
Warrington Wolves and Catalan Dragons will both wheel back their big guns for tomorrow’s Stobart Super League clash in Perpignan.
Wolves coach Tony Smith and and his Dragons counterpart Trent Robinson opted to rest some of their key personnel for the first games of their Easter programme last Thursday, and the gambles paid off with comfortable wins over Widnes Vikings and London Broncos, respectively.
Smith welcomes back veterans Adrian Morley, Lee Briers and Trent Waterhouse for the trip to Stade Gilbert Brutus, while Robinson recalls front-row trio David Ferriol, Eloi Pelissier and Jason Baitieri for the televised game.
The Wolves are only a point behind leaders Huddersfield Giants, who take on second-placed Hull FC at the Galpharm Stadium tomorrow, and just a point ahead of the Dragons, who are unbeaten at home so far this year.
“It is going to be really tough,” said Warrington prop Paul Wood.
“Catalan have always been a tough team, ever since they came into the league, but this season they seem to have notched it up a little bit.
“Their forwards are very good at getting around the park and they can also play with the ball. I think that is something we have done in previous years but at the moment they are the benchmark for Super League.”
The match will see former New Zealand international Louis Anderson go up against his former team-mates for the first time since his move from Warrington at the end of last season.
The tough-tackling second rower has made just four appearances for the Dragons so far because of injury but has made a big impact on his new club, according to his coach.
“Louis has settled in fine,” said Robinson. “He’s a pretty laid-back guy and, although he was the last to arrive, he very quickly adjusted to the change in culture and lifestyle and he’s been great for the team.”
The Catalans are hoping for a stadium record 11,500 crowd tomorrow, which is a public holiday in France.
Huddersfield are also expecting a bumper crowd for the visit of Hull, who will leapfrog their hosts into top spot if they extend their winning run to seven matches.
Hull have no forwards coming back from injury which means assistant coach Lee Radford is set to make his second appearance in four days after coming out of retirement.
Defending champions Leeds Rhinos will be aiming to halt a three-match losing run when they host London Broncos, who won 36-26 at Headingley in the corresponding match last year.
The Broncos have lost all five away matches so far this year but coach Rob Powell saw enough in their 36-18 defeat by the Catalans to encourage him.
“Other than a poor 10 minutes defensively after half-time, we competed very well against a very good team,” he said.
“Leeds will challenge in some similar areas and we will need to stay focused defensively.”
St Helens have called up 19-year-old half-back Adam Swift for the trip to Castleford Tigers.
Swift is pencilled in to replace Jonny Lomax, who broke a finger in the Good Friday defeat by Wigan, although the versatile Gary Wheeler is also available after recovering from injury.
Former Saints boss Ian Millward has rung the changes for the Tigers after losing seven regulars to injury.
Winger James Clare makes his home debut and Academy youngsters Ben Johnson and Josh Atkinson are both in line to make their Super League bows.
“I think fans can look positively at the changes,” said Millward. “I’m excited about the opportunities to give other players their chances.”
Wakefield Trinity Wildcats, too, have made wholesale changes for the visit to Wigan Warriors, with former London Broncos hooker Andy Ellis set to make his debut alongside youngsters Danny Cowling and Liam Kay.
Wigan coach Shaun Wane, whose side emerged relatively unscathed from their win over Saints, says he will not be underestimating the lowly Wildcats.
“They’re well coached by Richard Agar,” he said. “I’m expecting a very competitive Wakefield team.”
Bradford Bulls have just 18 senior players left for their game at bottom club Widnes, who are also down to the bare bones.
Vikings coach Denis Betts admits it will be a difficult task to get his players up for their second game in quick succession.
“It’s a tough ask for the best sides, never mind the sides who are struggling with the size and age of their squads,” he said.
“This weekend turns into a mental battle. It’s about getting your mind ready to play when your body is not.”
Salford City Reds host Hull KR and have hooker Wayne Godwin back for his first senior outing since he suffered rib-cartilage damage in the opening game of the season.
“He played a game for the reserves but injured himself again,” said coach Phil Veivers.
“The form of the other two hookers then kept him out but I feel it’s the right time to bring him back.”
Both clubs dropped out of the top eight after failing to build on a promising start to the season and will see this game as an opportunity to get back to winning ways.
“They’re hurting on the back of a couple of losses and so are we,” said Veivers. “It should be a pretty competitive game.”