Rugby League

Super League: Friday’s talking points and team news

We look at what’s being said and what’s still to play for in the final round of the 2020 Super League regular season as Salford Red Devils face Wakefield Trinity followed by Wigan Warriors against Huddersfield Giants…

Shield and play-off spots up for grabs

The decision to bring Super League’s regular season to a close this week and expand the play-offs to the top six means the destination of the League Leaders Shield will be decided on Friday evening.

Wigan are well-placed to finish top of the standings and victory over Huddersfield in the night’s second match would see Adrian Lam’s side clinch the Shield for the first time in eight years.

Wigan Warriors vs Huddersfield Giants

November 6, 2020, 7:45pm

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Last week’s 18-6 win in the derby clash with St Helens put them in pole position to do just that, with previous leaders Saints being able to do nothing but sit and watch after their scheduled trip to Catalans Dragons on Thursday was cancelled as a result of the latest changes to the season.

Denying their old rivals the Shield for the third year running may make it a bit sweeter for Wigan should they secure the win they need, but head coach Lam sees it mainly as a reward for their efforts in this pandemic-interrupted campaign.

“As a club, we haven’t done that since 2012, and it would be a massive achievement for the club and for me personally as coach,” Lam said.

“I guess it’s a reward for a difficult season to be in a position to win that trophy. It would be something special and, with one game to go, it’s in our hands.

“We’ve been a lot more consistent this year. When we originally went into lockdown, we were top of the table then, so we’ve been up there or thereabouts all year.”

There is the added incentive of securing top seeding for the play-offs as well, with first and second going straight through to the semi-finals. As it stands, Wigan would host the lowest-placed play-off winner from next week’s first-round matches on Friday, November 20 while St Helens would welcome the highest-placed winner the night before.

As well as handing Saints top spot, however, defeat for the Warriors could see Warrington Wolves – currently third – sneak into the semis by virtue of a superior points difference percentage as all three would be level on win percentage. Catalans Dragons, Leeds Rhinos and Hull FC are the three teams who will enter the play-offs next week whatever happens, though.

Wigan squad: Zak Hardaker, Chris Hankinson, Oliver Gildart, Joe Burgess, Bevan French, Tommy Leuluai, Tony Clubb, Sam Powell, George Burgess, Willie Isa, Liam Farrell, Ben Flower, Morgan Smithies, Oliver Partington, Joe Bullock, Liam Byrne, Dom Manfredi, Jake Bibby, Harry Smith, Jackson Hastings, Brad Singleton.

Giants on standby

Huddersfield go into the match against Wigan knowing they will not be able to crack the top six, but could yet be called upon to take part in the play-offs.

That is because as the team guaranteed to finish seventh – a situation which was confirmed when Salford were deducted three wins for a historical financial indiscretion – will be placed on standby in case any of the four sides who are involved in next week’s play-off matches are unable to compete due to coronavirus.

Giants head of rugby Andy Kelly acknowledges it is a strange situation for the players to be in, although he insisted the squad will be ready to compete if they are called into action.

“Obviously at this stage of the season we would usually be getting ready to finish after what could be our last game of the season on Friday,” Kelly said.

“However, we will now be on standby, which will mean testing the players and training as normal until we get the results of the next round of testing for the four teams involved in the play-off games.

“If they are clear to play only then will we be stood down. We are and we will be ready to play.”

Meanwhile, acting head coach Luke Robinson is set to hand Ireland international prop Ronan Michael, who started the year with Canberra Raiders U20s and spent time over the summer with Dublin-based Longhorns RL, his Super League debut.

Huddersfield squad: Ashton Golding, Jermaine McGillvary, Jake Wardle, Jordan Turner, Darnell Mcintosh, Aidan Sezer, James Gavet, Suaia Matagi, Joe Wardle, Michael Lawrence, Matty English, Ukuma Ta’ai, Leroy Cudjoe, Oliver Russell, Louis Senior, Sam Wood, Reiss Butterworth, Owen Trout, Chris McQueen, Ronan Michael, Brandon Moore.

Wakefield Trinity vs Salford Red Devils

November 6, 2020, 5:00pm

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Red Devils and Trinity aim to finish on a high

Following three wins being deducted from their total this season, Salford’s match against Wakefield which kicks off Friday’s double-header at Headingley has little riding on it for either team.

Trinity head coach Chris Chester could be forgiven if he was pleased to see the back of this season, given the struggles the team have faced in terms of results, injuries and coronavirus-enforced absences at times.

But Chester is still keeping in a positive frame of mind as Wakefield approach their final match of the year.

“It’s been a frustrating year for everybody, but we can take pride from being the only club to play 19 games and we are one of only a few teams to have travelled to Catalans,” Chester said.

“We’re disappointed that we’ve not been able to play the last game [against local rivals Castleford Tigers] but we want to finish the season on a win. That’s the least our loyal fans deserve and it’s important we take something into pre-season.”

Tom Johnstone, Reece Lyne, Bill Tupou, Jay Pitts and Craig Kopczak all return to Wakefield’s squad for this match, while Salford are set to give Niall Evalds – who is joining Castleford next year – and the retiring Mark Flanagan their final appearances for the club.

Wakefield squad: Tom Johnstone, Bill Tupou, Reece Lyne, Ben Jones-Bishop, Jacob Miller, David Fifita, Kyle Wood, Tinirau Arona, Jay Pitts, Craig Kopczak, James Batchelor, Chris Green, Jordy Crowther, Brad Walker, Lee Kershaw, Ryan Hampshire, Connor Bailey, Harry Bowes, Kelepi Tanginoa, Innes Senior, Eddie Battye.

Salford squad: Niall Evalds, Ed Chamberlain, Kris Welham, Dan Sarginson, Krisnan Inu, Tui Lolohea, Lee Mossop, Gil Dudson, Pauli Pauli, Tyrone McCarthy, Sebatine Ikahihifo, Greg Burke, Luke Yates, Chris Atkin, Mark Flanagan, Elliot Kear, Connor James, Jack Ormondroyd, Luis Roberts, Andy Ackers, Kallum Watkins.

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