Rhinos to test Webster's honeymoon run
Wakefield Trinity Wildcats coach James Webster is hoping his "honeymoon" period is extended to include tomorrow night's derby with Leeds Rhinos as his side seek to maintain their impressive run in the First Utility Super League season.
The Wildcats have won two and drawn one of their three matches since Webster succeeded Richard Agar in the hot seat to virtually guarantee their survival, but the Australian admits the visit of the second-placed Rhinos will provide the acid test.
"It is for lots of reasons," Webster said.
"One is obviously the opposition but when anything is new, whether you're at home and you're doing some painting or building work, it's really easy to rip into it for the first couple of days and once that wears off a little, it's a bit harder to get into it.
"It's the same with us. Are we able to maintain those standards for a longer period of time?
“That's been spoken about. I think the boys will be able to do that but the proof is in the pudding. We've got to go out and play with the same desire that's got us to where we are now."
Most eyes will be on the hooking duel between former Leeds player Paul McShane, who is set to captain the Wildcats in the absence of the injured Danny Kirmond, and Paul Aiton, the Papua New Guinea international who was sold by Wakefield at the height of their financial crisis last year.
Aiton is only two games into his comeback after sitting out three months with a mystery illness and, having missed Leeds' back-to-back league and cup wins over his old club in April, is nervously approaching his return to the Rapid Solicitors Stadium.
"I played in the Boxing Day clash but this will be my first in-season match against them," he said. "It's a home game for Wakefield as well so it's a big one and pretty special.
"It's always a pretty vocal crowd but whether it's good or bad I don't know."
Leeds threequarter Luke Briscoe, who made his Super League debut during an early-season loan spell with Wakefield, is also in line to face his old team-mates.
And although the game comes a week too early for veteran second rower Ali Lauitiiti to make his return from a knee injury, McShane will be among five Wakefield players facing their old club.
"There's certainly a fair amount of ex-Leeds players at Wakefield and they will raise their game," said Leeds coach Brian McDermott.
"I know for certain Paul Mac will. He'll be looking forward to having a big game against us."
While Wakefield must perform without their captain, the Rhinos are boosted by the return of skipper Kevin Sinfield, who sat out last week's nailbiting win over Catalan Dragons with a stiff back.
McDermott added: "We don't lack leadership when he's not there but some of that overall control and some of that calmness that we probably lacked a bit last week."
While Wakefield are hosting their fourth in a run of five consecutive home matches, Hull FC will play their first home game for two months when Warrington Wolves are the visitors to the KC Stadium on Friday night.
Lee Radford's men have collected five points from a possible 12 on their travels since their past appearance in front of their own fans in May, and will be looking to add to their haul to keep alive their flagging play-off hopes.
Warrington are going for an eighth successive win and are undefeated on their previous six visits to the KC Stadium going back to 2007, but coach Tony Smith is wary of a Hull side he believes are in a false position in the table.
"They are a team that can perform as good as any on their day," Smith said.
"They've probably had some inconsistent performances, by their own admission, this year but we are preparing for their best.
"They have been away from home for some time with their pitch being reseeded so that will make this a homecoming game for them. They are always a very passionate crowd, especially at home.
"It's not an easy trip, hopefully we can go over there and stand up to that and the challenges that it brings."