It’s round eighteen of the Betfred Super League, round seventeen of the Championship, and round thirteen of Championship One as the competitions head towards the Super Eights, possibly for the penultimate time, to determine promotion and relegation.
Super League takes place over a four day weekend while there are Championship fixtures on Saturday and Sunday. The entire League One programme is on Sunday afternoon with most games kicking off at 15:00.
There is plenty of potential across the leagues for some competitive matches which will go some way to determining final league positions.
Salford Red Devils and the Widnes Vikings get events underway when the meet at the A J Bell Stadium on Thursday evening with tenth placed Salford the favourites to beat their bottom of the table visitors as new Vikings coach Francis Cummins looks to change their fortunes. A win for Salford would keep alive their hopes of avoiding the Middle Eights and they name both Greg Burke and Ed Chamberlain in the squad to make their debuts against their parent club. Gavin Bennion is also recalled for Salford while a concussed Mark Flanagan misses out. Widnes were the winners when the sides met earlier in the season and will be hoping that the presence of the SKY cameras for this fixture for the second time will be a good omen as they look to lift themselves from bottom spot.
The most interesting game of the round takes place at the John Smith’s Stadium on Friday night as eighth placed Huddersfield Giants take on an in-form and ninth Catalans Dragons as the race for the eight hots up. A Giants win will give then some breathing space, but should the Dragons get the points then they will finish the round in eighth. Giants coach Simon Woolford has made two changes to the side which beat the Rhinos last week with Dale Ferguson and Oliver Roberts replacing Paul Clough and Innes Senior. The Dragons are the bookies underdogs for the win and coach McNamara also makes two changes with Jason Baitieri and Vincent Duport replacing Antoni Maria and Fouad Yaha. Tickets for this game are free if ordered, before midday on Friday, in advance from the Giants.
The televised fixture on Friday is the game between the struggling Leeds Rhinos and the Champions elect St Helens. Despite the Rhinos winning the game at the Totally Wicked Stadium earlier in the season it is the visitors who are the big favourites against a Rhinos side decimated by injury and plunging down the league table at an alarming rate. Leeds may give a debut to nineteen year old Harry Newman and also recall Joel Moon and Anthony Mullally to their squad but they have lost play maker Richie Myler and Mikolaj Oledzki to concussion and Brett Delaney to a hamstring injury. There is just one change for Saints with Jack Ashworth replacing Kyle Amor in the squad.
Hull FC and Wigan Warriors meet on Saturday afternoon with the home side the favourites to take the points against a Warriors side who appear to have imploded over recent weeks, despite holding on to their second spot. At the time of writing neither squad had been announced but the Warriors will be desperate to halt a three game losing run while FC have their eyes on a top four spot.
There are two games on Sunday afternoon as the sides in third and fourth go into action.
Warrington Wolves travel to Wakefield Trinity for a difficult game after their loss to Castleford Tigers last time out. Wakefield have won two on the bounce and will still be buzzing after defeating the Warriors last time out. The bookies have the Wolves as favourites but Chris Chester’s men go into the game full of confidence. Chris Kendall will be blowing the whistle.
The weekend’s final Super League game is a 15:30 kick off as fourth placed Castleford Tigers take on eleventh placed Hull KR. The bookies can’t see past a big home win as the Tigers seek to maintain their top four place to give themselves a chance at a return to Old Trafford. Liam Moore is in charge.
In the Championship the expansion clubs play their games on Saturday with Toulouse playing Leigh in the game of the round with a 14:30 kick-off in the south of France. A win for the visitors would lift them, at least temporarily, into the top four but a loss could see them cut adrift from the all-important top four places. Much later in the day, at 21:30, Toronto Wolfpack host the Dewsbury Rams as they continue their relentless march at the top of the table.
The rest of the games in the Championship kick-off at 15:00 on Sunday as, with one exception, sides from the top half of the table play those from the bottom. Featherstone will expect a win over a dogged and determined Barrow who have surprised many this season. London are at home to Rochdale and will expect the points as they continue to work for the top four. Halifax will be expecting an away win at Swinton while Sheffield Eagles travel to Batley as the bottom six sides struggle to avoid being cut adrift by the top six.
Championship League One fixtures are;
14:00 – Hemel Stags v. Newcastle Thunder
14:30 – North Wales Crusaders v. York City Knights
15:00 – Hunslet v. Coventry Bears
15:00 – Keighley Cougars v. West Wales Raiders
15:00 – Oldham v. London Skolars
15:00 – Whitehaven v. Bradford Bulls
15:00 – Workington Town v. Doncaster
Wherever you watch your rugby this weekend, enjoy!