Wildcats out to extend cushion
Boosted by Bradford Bulls’ failure to win back any of their docked points, Wakefield Trinity Wildcats have the chance to further strengthen their First Utility Super League survival hopes when bottom club London Broncos visit the Rapid Solicitors Stadium tomorrow night.
The Wildcats remain six points clear of the Bulls, whose appeal against a six-point deduction was rejected yesterday, and new coach James Webster is now hoping his team can start to climb the table.
"Obviously it's fantastic news for us in that we're still six points ahead of Bradford," Webster said.
"I definitely don't think we'll be safe if we win tomorrow because there'll be 11 games left but we're looking to try and get up the table and catch some people rather than getting dragged into relegation.
"We've a highly motivated group who want to improve as a squad and they probably feel they let themselves down a bit in the first half of the year."
Defeat for the Broncos would see them make the worst start to a Super League season, breaking the record set by Huddersfield Giants when they began the 2001 campaign with 15 straight losses.
The odds are stacked in favour of Wakefield, who won 50-22 at The Hive in March and are undefeated in their last 11 home games against the Broncos, whose last win at Belle Vue was in 2003.
The Londoners have shown signs of improvement since Joe Grima succeeded Tony Rea as head coach a month ago and he is hoping a week off will help them break their duck.
"It's been good just to get away from work, not only for the players but the staff as well, just to refresh and recharge the batteries," Grima said. "I think it's come at a really, really good time.
"A lot of the players went away together overseas so they spent some quality time with each other, which is always good."
As expected, Webster pitches scrum-half Tim Smith straight into action following his return to the club from an ill-fated stint at Salford Red Devils and he is expecting big things from his fellow Australian.
"Tim likes being in control, he likes being the main man," Webster said. "I've known him since he was a kid when turned up at Parramatta, so a good 15 years now, and I understand what makes him tick.
"He's really keen and I sense he's got something to prove coming back. He's got a real bounce in his step.
"He's had two training sessions but he knows the boys and he knows how he likes to play. He'll be a bit rusty but he's a class player and, on his day, he can be really pivotal for us."
The scent of revenge will be in the air at the DW Stadium, where Wigan Warriors have an early opportunity to atone for their Tetley’s Challenge Cup quarter-final defeat by Castleford Tigers.
The Tigers are going for a fourth straight win over Shaun Wane's men and have leading tryscorer Justin Carney back from suspension but coach Daryl Powell has opted to sit out prop Andy Lynch for the first time in Super League this year.
Daryl Clark and Jake Webster also rest as Powell makes full use of his big, virtually injury-free squad.
"Friday is a completely different game and is part of a block of games, finishing with St Helens, that we have targeted," said Wane.
Warrington Wolves will be aiming to extend their winning run to six matches when they go to Hull KR, where they triumphed 28-24 in the Challenge Cup in April.
However, the Wolves will be without influential hooker Michael Monaghan as well as scrum-half Richie Myler as they look to avenge a surprise home league defeat by the Robins, whose coach Craig Sandercock has shaken up his side following their heavy loss at Castleford last time out.
The return of error-prone full-back Greg Eden, who has been recalled from his loan spell following the loss through injury of Ben Cockayne, is one of five changes and Sandercock says the former Huddersfield Giants player, once dubbed "Britain's Billy Slater" is now back in his plans.
"He's raring to play and has improved the areas I've asked him to work on," Sandercock said.
Widnes Vikings have skipper Jon Clarke back after a month's absence with a calf injury as they look to complete the double over Hull FC following their first win in East Yorkshire for 21 years earlier this season.
Hull coach Lee Radford has identified the Vikings' former Wigan and Huddersfield stand-off Kevin Brown as the main danger man.
"It beggars belief how he hasn't made the England squad," Radford said. "The majority of the good things they're doing seem to be around him so he's a key player for them and we're going to have to do a good job of keeping him within our range."