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The Super Preview - Australian Rugby league News
globalrugbyleague - Fri, 13 Jun 2008 17:17:00 GMT
Super League XIII approaches a crucial part of the season, with all 12 clubs fully aware that any slip-ups now may cost them dearly come play-off time.

Every game becomes a must-win for every team with every player and coach under the spotlight to get their club the right results.

The exception, perhaps, is Leeds, who ultimately just need to hold on to top spot until the play-offs

The only Friday night match this weekend sees struggling Bradford make an unwanted visit to St Helens, a game to be shown live on Sky.

A trip to the GPW Recruitment Stadium to face a side with six consecutive Super League wins under their belt is the last thing head coach Steve McNamara needed, especially with his squad seriously out of form and blighted by injuries.

McNamara is without seven first-team regulars, including captain Paul Deacon.

Influential second rower Glenn Morrison was this week ruled our for the rest of the season, while Terry Newton and Wayne Godwin's injuries leave McNamara without any recognised hookers.

The Odsal side are going through a selection nightmare at the moment, epitomised by the drafting in of Academy youngsters Keal Carlile and Kieran Hyde.

Carlile, 18, will stand in at hooker while full-back Hyde, also 18, enters the squad while winger Semi Tadulala makes his return from a dislocated shoulder.

Daniel Anderson, on the other hand, has a near-full strength squad to choose from, with forwards Jason Cayless and Chris Flannery the only absentees.

Bradford still hold on to fifth place, but do so by the skin of their teeth, and only points difference keeps them above Warrington and Wakefield.

Their rut of form is certain to get no better this week, with a home win the only realistic outcome.

On Saturday night, Wigan return to action after their week off last weekend, but are thrown into the thick of it with a trip to in-form Les Catalans.

Brian Noble has selection problems of his own, with centre Phil Bailey and second rower Gareth Hock set to miss out through injury, giving new signing Cameron Phelps a chance to make his debut. Prop Andy Coley could step in at second row if Hock isn't passed fit.

Mick Potter has no fresh worries, and should make the sole change to last week's squad that won 24-16 win at Bradford. Cyril Stacul is set to come in for Julien Touxagas. Alex Chan (rib) and Dimitri Pelo (ankle) should shake off knocks picked up at Odsal last Sunday.

A Wigan win would see them climb to within a point of their French rivals with a game in hand. But they will have their work cut out if they are to overcome a Les Catalans side buoyed by five wins from six.

The other Saturday fixture sees the irresistible force that is Leeds head south to the Twickenham Stoop. They meet Harlequins, Sky's other live match of the weekend.

Like St Helens, Leeds have won six on the run, and welcome back prop Jamie Peacock, after he missed round 16’s 36-22 win over Hull FC.

Ali Lauititi sits out for the third week in a row with a knee injury, so youngster Simon Worrall will deputise in the second row, meaning Ryan Hall is the unlucky man to miss out.

Wingman Rikki Sherrife strained a quad muscle during last week's 40-24 defeat at home to Warrington, and is sidelined for Leeds' visit. Winger Jon Wells is still a couple of weeks away from full fitness after tearing a medial knee ligament.

Centre David Howell needed thirteen stitches on cuts to the nose and lip last week, but should be fit to face the reigning champions.

Prop Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, who has been out since mid-March with a broken wrist, could make his long-awaited return for head coach Brian McDermott.

With just one win in six, McDermott needs his side firing on all cylinders if they are to stop an awesome Leeds machine.

Rock-bottom Castleford travel to the KC Stadium on Sunday, and will be reeling from last Saturday's derby defeat to Wakefield.

Hull FC have looked rejuvenated since the appointment of John Agar as head coach.

They even raced into an 18-4 half-time lead at Leeds last Friday, only to ship six second-half tries to the runaway league leaders.

Hull are aiming to grab their first league victory since beating Huddersfield at the end of April, and recall Aussie hooker Shaun Berrigan and Hull-born loose forward Danny Washbrook from injury

John Agar only has winger Gareth Raynor unavailable. The Great Britain winger is still sidelined with a leg injury.

Black & Whites fans believe this game could be the one to kick-start a potential play-off push, while Castleford coach Terry Matterson's aim now must surely be not to finish bottom of the pile come the end of the season.

After last week's 52-10 drubbing at St Helens, Hull KR coach Justin Morgan will be seeking a marked improvement for his side's tough visit to Warrington. He will have to cope without second rower Clint Newton, though, who misses the trip through suspension.

Warrington snatched their first win in three weeks with a 40-24 win at Harlequins, in their first match under interim head coach James Lowes.

Both sides have had topsy-turvy season, losing half of their 16 league games, so home advantage could well be a deciding factor in this one.

Finally, Wakefield have another West Yorkshire derby to tend to, with manageless Huddersfield the visitors to Belle Vue.

Huddersfield are in a miserable run of form, with just one win in six, compared to Wakefield who have impressed recently with four from six.

Wakefield narrowly triumphed at the Galpharm Stadium back in April, winning 18-16. They recently reached the semis of the Challenge Cup, and are brimming with confidence under John Kear.

On the contrary, Huddersfield seem to have nothing in their favour, so the home side look a good bet to pick up another win here.

From now on, it's weekends like this that will give Super League fans a better idea of the crucial play-off make-up in September.

My Predictions:

St Helens v Bradford - Home Win
Les Catalans v Wigan - Home Win
Harlequins v Leeds - Away Win
Warrington v Hull KR - Home Win
Wakefield v Huddersfield - Home Win
Hull FC v Castleford - Home Win - Read More, Here