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globalrugbyleague - Fri, 20 Feb 2009 17:30:00 GMT

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Performance flatulence will be experienced by every Super League team this season. Some will get it out of their system earlier than others.

Six teams will be looking to put some respect back on the Super League ladder this weekend in the form of competition points. But that’s easier said than done.

Wigan, Hull KR, Castleford, Celtic Crusaders, Warrington and Catalans have yet to record a win. Harlequins and Bradford are not playing this week.

The jury is still out on whether it’s time for those clubs to make serious line-up changes. Is it wise to crack the selection whip early in the season after a few losses?

It doesn’t matter who you have on the field, if the game-plan doesn’t get followed in either half of the contest, odds are your team probably won’t be feeling too flash on the long trip home.

We’ll find out if “pass the player” method works tonight when the Western Force tackles the Cheetahs in the Super 14’s Rugby Union after Force coach John Mitchell made seven changes to his playing roster after only one round.

Though the rules of playing League and Union are diametrically different, the psychology of preparing a team and putting in it a winning frame of mind are similar. Both codes can learn off each other in this regard.

Sometimes a coach should cop being booed from the crowd and show plenty of trust in the development of a team regardless of the early results. Better to discover your weakest points now than when a spot in the final is up for grabs.

Round one attendance was impressive for the most part.77,911 attended all seven fixtures last weekend. St Helens attracted a whopping 17,009 fans to witness last year’s Grand Final runners-up score their first home win of the season. Salford fans did not share the same enthusiasm with only 4,026 opting for an evening at the footy over quality time at home near the television set or radio.

ROUND TWO PREVIEW

HULL KR V LEEDS RHINOS
Friday February 20, 2009
Venue: New Craven Park
Referee: P Bentham
Kick-Off: 8:00pm

Justin Morgan’s men have yet to score a win in Super League after sharing the spoils with Bradford by snatching the first draw of 2009 in a low-scoring affair (13-13).

The loss of centre Chev Walker to suspension said a lot in not so many words but more or less actions. You could tell just how important Walker was going to be for this game by the club’s decision to appeal the verdict unsuccessfully earlier this week.

The Robins will also be without captain Micheal Vella who could be sidelined for up to six weeks.

Walker’s absence however is Jake Webster’s opportunity to once again exhibit why he is a big loss to the NRL.He’ll bring the speed, the timing and the creative footwork to get the job done.

The Rhinos will see the return of Keith Senior and Kevin Sinfield but will still be without the services of fullback Brent Webb and scrum-half Robb Burrow.

Leeds are undefeated and will be feeling on top of the world with two wins behind them. Hull KR must challenge them early to cut down the confidence they have in their first half game plan.

Brian McLennan’s men will not want to head into a World Club Challenge off the back of a loss.At home in front of a huge crowd Hull KR will bring a bit more attacking fluency in the halves under the eyes of Michael Dobson and should get the job done.

Hull: Briscoe, Fox, Welham, Webster, Colbon, Cooke, Dobson, Fozzard, Fisher, Aizue, Newton, Galea, Murrell, Fitzhenry, Lovegrove, Netherton, Cockayne, Mills, TBA.


Leeds: Donald, Smith, Senior, Hall, McGuire, Leuluai, Buderus, Peacock, Jones-Bishop, Sinfield, Diskin, Bailey, Kirke, Ablett, Burgess, Gibson, Allan, Watkins, Mcshane.

WIGAN V CASTLEFORD
Friday February 20, 2009
Venue: JJB Stadium
Referee: Steve Ganson
Kick-Off: 8:00pm

Take two at JJB Stadium. Wigan owe their fans not just a win but a high-scoring morale boost after losing two straight matches for the first time since 2006. The selection guillotine is ready if their plans don’t fall into place this week.

Castleford were a bit impatient with the ball last week and that cost them dearly in terms of possession and therefore opportunities. Let’s be honest. They didn’t need that many to win the game.

This game sees the return of the player voted worst import in the Super League in 2008 by readers of a UK magazine, Brent Sherwin .He’ll be keen to let his kicking game shut the mouths of a few critics.

Wigan coach Brian Noble has added Karl Pryce into the team along with 19-year-old winger Shaun Ainscough. Mentally the Tigers should be feeling more positive despite playing away and will relax a bit more with the ball.

Their opponents could go conservative just to get their first competition points but if that strays too far away from their natural playing style, it could prove costly.

Former Warriors coach Ian Millward believes his former side are “running out of excuses” and could lose this one. I tend to agree. Can’t wait to read the Wigan forums after this game is done and dusted.

Wigan: Roberts, Goulding, Carmont, Richards, Smith, Leuluai, Fielden, Riddell, Paleaaesina, Hock, Bailey, O'Loughlin, J. Tomkins, Coley, Hansen, McIlorum, Pryce, O'Carroll, Ainscough.

Castleford: Owen, Dixon, Shenton, Evans, Wainwright, Chase, Sherwin, Sargent, Hudson, Huby, Ferres, Westerman, Jones, Higgins, Feather, Netherton, Faumina, McGoldrick, Widders.

CELTIC CRUSADERS V HULL FC
Saturday February 21, 2009
Venue: Brewery Field
Referee: J Leahy
Kick-Off: 6:00pm

Emotionally the Crusaders deserve to win in their first home game since joining the best of the best in the second biggest Rugby League competition in the world

But let’s be practical for a moment. With no match practice in the pre-season and a hasty recruitment drive, are we really surprised that they are favourites to take out the wooden spoon so early in the season?

Celtic try hard and have to be admired for not conceding a record loss two-weeks ago against Leeds which could have killed off their season altogether.

The Welsh team's second-half performances are good but that’s not going to win them games.

Fixing up their defence in the opening term is what will get coach John Dixon closer to a celebratory brew. Whether he can do that in the short-term with the current class of talent remains to be seen.

One thing has become apparent quite early in this competition. The Crusaders will not win the Grand Final in 2009 as I speculated they might after a late night at a pub in Sydney.

Hull FC proved last week they know how to make an opposition pay for their errors and the Crusaders sadly will have a few of those to offer.

Celtic Crusaders: Duggan, Dyer, Hannay, Dalle Cort, Blackwood, Quinn, Van Dijk, Smith, O'Hara, Budworth, Bryant, Peek, Mapp, Chalk, Lupton, Flower, J. James, Beasley, Chan

Hull FC: Byrne, Hall, Briscoe, Calderwood, Yeaman, R. Horne, G. Horne, Thorman, Dowes, Cusack, Maloney, Thackray, Berrigan, Houghton, Tickle, Burnett, Manu, Radford, Washbrook.

WARRINGTON WOLVES V CATALANS DRAGONS
Saturd - Read More, Here