The race for leagues positions across the Betfred leagues enters round seventeen for Super League, round sixteen for the Championship and round twelve for Championship One. There are nineteen fixtures over the weekend kicking off with tonight’s visit of an embattled Wigan Warriors to Wakefield Trinity.
There are four fixtures on Friday night with Hull FC v. Salford Red Devils, Leeds Rhinos v. Huddersfield Giants, Warrington Wolves v. Castleford Tigers and St Helens v. Hull KR while the Catalans Dragons and Widnes Vikings meet on Saturday tea time.
With Saints running away with the Super League the big interest is in which sides will make the top eight, and which four sides from the Championship will be joining the bottom four from Super League in the dreaded middle eights.
A home victory for Wakefield could lift them above the Leeds Rhinos (depending on the result at Headingley) and after a weekend off, coach Chris Chester makes just one change with Matty Ashurst replacing Chris Annakin. After their cup exit to the Warrington Wolves current Wigan coach Sean Wane makes two changes to his side as he replaces Ryan Sutton(knee problem) and Joel Tomkins (much publicised club discipline issue) with Dan Sarginson and Gabe Hamlin. The Warriors are the favourites to halt a two game losing streak.
Hull FC have been licking their wounds after they lost out narrowly to Saints in the cup and they will be wondering when their injury and disciplinary luck will change. The latest losses to the squad are Danny Houghton, Sika Manu and Dean Hadley who all sustained injuries last week but as a small crumb of comfort they do welcome back Joe Westerman with Liam Harris, Jack Downs and Cameron Scott named in the squad. Salford coach Ian Watson is able to name Josh Jones for the first time in two months and Kris Welham is also a welcome return. You can get good odds on a Salford win with FC as massive favourites as they push for the top four.
Leeds Rhinos are another side with big injury problems but they do have Liam Sutcliffe and Mitch Garbutt back in their side. The cost is Jimmy Keinhorst and Carl Ablett who have both failed to overcome injuries picked up in the big cup quarter final win over the Leigh Centurions. Matt Parcell is also a doubt after sustaining concussion but the Rhinos are hopeful that he will be cleared to play. The Giants are once again without the services of Danny Brough who picked up another suspension from the mid-week disciplinary committee. Also missing are Jake Mamo and Oliver Roberts with Michael Lawrence, Innes Senior and Oliver Russell in the nineteen. Leeds are hot favourites to record back-to-back wins.
On paper, the game of the round is Warrington Wolves v. Castleford Tigers as third play fourth. Coach Price has the luxury of naming an unchanged squad from the side which humiliated the Warriors last weekend as they look to consolidate their top four spot and put more distance between themselves and the chasing pack. Daryl Powell has been forced into three changes of the visitors with Liam Watts and Jamie Ellis both injured and Tuoyo Egodo dropped from the side. Greg Minikin returns from injury and new signings Mitch Clark and Quentin Laulu-Togaga’e could both make their first appearances. It’s the Wolves who the bookies fancy to continue their tremendous recent form and pick up the win.
Fridays final game pitches the Champions elect, St Helens, against a side who are seemingly destined for the middle eights, Hull KR. Saints have made just one change bringing in Matty Lees to replace Adam Swift while Tim Sheens rings the changes for the Robins with Josh Johnson, Matty Marsh and Elliot Wallis all in the squad. Aaron Smith is ineligible to play as a Saints loan player and Kieren Moss and Will Dagger are the other two absentees. Bookies and pundits alike see only one winner of this one.
The final game of the weekend is played on Saturday late afternoon when Widnes Vikings travel to the Catalans Dragons without coach Denis Betts. Widnes could have Weller Hauraki in their line up after signing him on loan from the Red Devils during in the week. The Dragons are strong favourites with the bookies after their recent turnaround in form as they push to make the top eight.
The two Championship expansion clubs play on Saturday with Toulouse v. Batley at 14:00 and Toronto v. London at 21:30. The remaining games are all played on Sunday afternoon as; Barrow welcome Rochdale, Dewsbury entertain Featherstone, Leigh take on Halifax in a real four pointer and Sheffield are at home to Swinton.
The Championship One games are played over Saturday and Sunday, all with 15:00 kick-offs, as follows;
Bradford Bulls v. North Wales Crusaders
London Skolars v. Hunslet
West Wales Raiders v. Hemel Stags
Coventry Bears v. Oldham
Doncaster v. Keighley Cougars
Newcastle Thunder v. Whitehaven
York City Knights v. Workington Town
Wherever you watch your rugby this weekend, enjoy!