Saints and Wigan set for derby tussle
St Helens and Wigan Warriors will have 10 men between them playing their third games in eight days, but Saints coach Royce Simmons admits they will have little difficulty getting themselves up for tomorrow’s Engage Super League derby.
The after-effects of last Friday’s Origin International, allied to difficult playing conditions, were crucial as both last year’s Grand Finalists were held to surprise draws at Castleford Tigers and Bradford Bulls on Sunday.
But there will be no excuses from Simmons if his side fail to make it third time lucky against the champions this season in tomorrow’s showdown at the Stobart Stadium, where the winners will leapfrog Warrington Wolves and Huddersfield Giants to the top of the table.
“I’m happy we’re playing Wigan and I think Wigan are probably happy they’re playing us,” he said.
“With the importance of the game and the rivalry between the two clubs, I think all the players will still be trying to get out there and compete at their best.
“Wigan are going through the same thing, so there can’t be any excuse for us.”
Saints welcome back centre Francis Meli after he was rested for the 14-14 draw with Bradford but there is no place for hooker Scott Moore.
Wigan, who have taken three points from the two meetings so far with their arch rivals, hope to welcome back prop Andy Coley following minor knee surgery, while Sam Tomkins and George Carmont return after sitting out the 22-22 draw at Castleford.
Simmons is reading nothing into the Warriors’ failure to hold onto a 22-4 half-time lead against the Tigers, though.
“They were very dominant, easily the best side, but then threw it away,” he said.
“They probably fell into that old trick of starting to think about next week.”
Leeds Rhinos captain Kevin Sinfield goes into tomorrow’s game at basement club Crusaders RL needing just seven points to become the second highest scorer in Super League history.
The Rhinos loose forward has amassed 2,370 points over 14 seasons at Headingley through 52 tries, 1,071 goals and 20 drop goals.
Another seven points would take him past ex-Wigan captain Andy Farrell’s 2,376 and within sight of Super League’s all-time leading scorer Paul Deacon, who is still going strong with 2,395.
Salford City Red’s players have been given an extra incentive to continue their impressive recent run when they take on Castleford at the Willows tomorrow.
Incoming coach Matt Parish, who will take up his new position when he concludes his State of Origin duties with New South Wales next month, will start to closely monitor the performances of the Reds players.
“After Wednesday’s (yesterday) game against Queensland, I intend to spend as much time as possible watching Salford’s games and getting familiar with the players I am about to work with,” he said.
“The players need to understand that they will be judged on their performances in every game they play for the rest of this season.
“They need to know they will be made accountable for every performance they put in.
“I am not overly concerned with what has happened in the past but, with a new coach about to arrive with some new ideas, the current group of players need to realise that a lot of them are playing for their futures at this club.”
Parish has been in touch with fellow Australians Ray Cashmere and Mark Henry, current Salford players who were at the North Queensland Cowboys when he was assistant coach, but he has been keen not to interfere with the role of acting coach Phil Veivers who has guided Salford to back-to-back wins.
“I think it is very important that the boys keep playing well for Phil and his staff, who have done a fantastic job in very tough circumstances this season,” he added.
It is five years since the Reds last won three Super League games in a row.