We take a look at what is being said and team news ahead of the Betfred Super League’s Magic Weekend getting under way at St James Park in Newcastle on Saturday…
Wakefield Trinity vs Toulouse Olympique (2pm)
This year’s State of Origin series reaches its conclusion in Brisbane next Wednesday as Queensland and New South Wales face off in a decider, but there is another best-of-three contest to be settled at Magic Weekend too.
That comes in the opening match of the weekend where Wakefield Trinity take on Toulouse Olympique in a match which although it will not decide the relegation battle in Super League, will go a likely long way towards it.
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Wakefield Trinity vs Toulouse
July 9, 2022, 2:00pm
Victory for Toulouse would close the gap between the bottom club and 11th-placed Trinity to two points with nine games of the regular season remaining and the French side’s Tony Gigot, who had a short spell at Wakefield in 2020, is under no illusions about the importance of this encounter.
“We all know it’s huge – it’s huge for Toulouse and it’s huge for Wakey as well, so we take this game with a lot of excitement and we’re very happy to come to play at Magic Weekend,” Gigot said.
“We’re going to try to play our best footy and give a good show to all of the fans.
“We’ve played them two times and it’s sort of like State of Origin where it’s 1-1. It’s the decider – and we’ll see on Saturday who is the winner.”
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Super League stars Ryan Brierley and Tony Gigot both say they are excited and determined to do well at Magic Weekend in Newcastle.
Toulouse have Eloi Pelissier and Ilias Bergal back in their squad for the game and head to Newcastle buoyed by a 28-6 win at home to Hull Kingston Rovers last Saturday.
Wakefield, meanwhile, have new signing Josh Bowden included in their squad for the match at St James’ Park after the prop joined from Hull FC on Thursday and head coach Willie Poching is determined not to get too wrapped up in this one match.
“It’s [just] another two points,” Poching said. “Our focus will be on giving some improvement, we’ll look to prepare as best we can.
“It is a big occasion for our sport. We’re first up, we open Magic Weekend, and we want to open it with a bang.”
Wakefield Trinity: Max Jowitt, Jacob Miller, Mason Lino, Liam Hood, Tinirau Arona, Matty Ashurst, Kelepi Tanginoa, Jay Pitts, Jordy Crowther, Jai Whitbread, James Batchelor, Jack Croft, Brad Walker, Harry Bowes, Lewis Murphy, Corey Hall, Thomas Minns, Rob Butler, David Fifita, Kyle Evans, Josh Bowden.
Toulouse Olympique: Latrell Schaumkel, Paul Marcon, Corey Norman, Lucas Albert, Romain Navarrete, Harrison Hansen, Dominique Peyroux, Anthony Marion, Eloi Pelissier, Joseph Bretherton, Joseph Paulo, Ilias Bergal, Chris Hankinson, Justin Sangare, Guy Armitage, Matty Russell, Olly Ashall-Bott, Nathan Peats, Lambert Belmas, Tony Gigot, Daniel Alvaro.
St Helens vs Wigan Warriors (4.45pm)
The first of two derby clashes on Saturday pits two of rugby league’s biggest and fiercest rivals against each other, with the added factor of it being the current top two in Super League squaring off as well.
The honours have been even between St Helens and Wigan so far in 2022, with the reigning champions triumphing 22-4 in their previous Super League meeting on Good Friday while the Warriors emerged 20-18 victors in the Betfred Challenge Cup semi-finals a month later.
St Helens vs Wigan Warriors
July 9, 2022, 4:30pm
Just two points separate the sides in the standings following Saints’ narrow 20-18 loss away to Catalans Dragons last Saturday as well and centre Mark Percival is expecting another full-blooded encounter with the Cherry and Whites.
“The results on the weekend make it a little bit more interesting,” Percival said. “We lost and Wigan won so the gap closes there at the top.
“They’ve been brilliant and what Matt Peet has brought back is some steel and what I felt they were missing. Now they’re bringing that week in, week out, and it looks like they’re enjoying it together which is the main thing.
“You’ve seen it before in derbies, nobody takes a backwards step. That’s what you’ll get for the whole game, but there’s also that respect at the end of it. It will bring an intensity that no other game brings.”
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St Helens head coach Kristian Woolf says the energy and excitement in the team are high heading into their Super League Magic Weekend match against Wigan.
Percival is a notable absentee for St Helens due to injury along with Tommy Makinson, but Will Hopoate, Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook and Konrad Hurrell all return. Matty Lees is available too after successfully appealing a one-match ban.
Wigan are without Thomas Leuluai due to a calf injury, but Cade Cust and Morgan Smithies are both back in head coach Matt Peet’s squad from the win away to Wakefield last Sunday.
And while they are not thinking about the League Leaders’ Shield just yet, hooker Sam Powell knows a win over their rivals would send out a statement heading into the last 10 games of the regular season.
“St Helens have been the benchmark for the last few years now, and we’re constantly trying to close that gap a little bit,” Powell said.
“It’s something we strive for every day. With the results on the weekend, it’s opened things up a bit. Yes, it’s only another two points but it’s a win we want to go and get.
“We’re not looking at it in terms of getting top spot, it’s more building a performance a team and a club. We’ve done a lot of good things this year, but we’ve got a lot more hard work to go.”
St Helens: Jack Welsby, Will Hopoate, Regan Grace, Jonny Lomax, Alex Walmsley, James Roby, Matty Lees, Sione Mata’utia, Joe Batchelor, Morgan Knowles, Joey Lussick, Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Curtis Sironen, Agnatius Paasi, Jake Wingfield, James Bell, Ben Davies, Konrad Hurrell, Dan Norman, Jon Bennison, Dan Hill.
Wigan Warriors: Bevan French, Jake Bibby, Liam Marshall, Cade Cust, Brad Singleton, Sam Powell, Patrick Mago, Willie Isa, Liam Farrell, John Bateman, Morgan Smithies, Kaide Ellis, Harry Smith, Oliver Partington, Ethan Havard, Liam Byrne, Kai Pearce-Paul, Joe Shorrocks, Jai Field, Abbas Miski, Brad O’Neill.
Leeds Rhinos vs Castleford Tigers (7pm)
Joe Westerman is relishing the prospect of showing a new audience what rugby league is all about with Castleford’s West Yorkshire derby clash against Leeds.
The back row was born in Pontefract and grew up a Cas fan, with the clashes against the Rhinos always being the ones which he looked out for on the calendar.
Leeds Rhinos vs Castleford Tigers
July 9, 2022, 7:30pm
Cas head into their Magic clash having boosted their play-off hopes with a 26-18 win over Huddersfield Giants last week and Westerman hopes the locals who turn out in Newcastle will be won over by an intense local rivalry.
“The thing with our game is it’s a local derby,” Westerman said. “Since I was a kid, it’s been the main game for Cas so I’m really looking forward to it.
“It gives the young kids chances of that semi-final kind of rugby where you’re walking out into a stadium which holds around 50,000 and it’s going to be warm.
“It’s a one-off game which you enjoy…and there’s that bit of extra pressure, so I’m looking forward to it.”
Castleford are boosted by the return of Alex Mellor for the first time since Easter after making his return from a knee injury in a loan outing for Betfred League One side Midlands Hurricanes last weekend.
Liam Watts is back after a one-game ban too, but Paul McShane and Nathan Massey are suspended, while the departing Jake Trueman’s season is over after he suffered an ACL injury in last Friday’s win over the Giants.
The Rhinos, meanwhile, have been dealt a further blow with the new Kruise Leeming out after picking up a foot injury in the 62-16 win away to Hull FC. The skipper joins the suspended contingent of Zane Tetevano, Tom Holroyd, Bodene Thompson, Muizz Mustapha and Harry Newman on the sidelines.
“I think last week just confirmed there is a high level of skill and belief in the group,” Leeds head coach Rohan Smith said.
“We’re limited to who we can choose from [against Castleford], but it’s always about who is playing rather than who isn’t, so we’ll be there to compete on Saturday.”
Castleford Tigers: Niall Evalds, Derrell Olpherts, Jake Mamo, Bureta Faraimo, Danny Richardson, Liam Watts, George Lawler, Kenny Edwards, Adam Milner, Joe Westerman, George Griffin, Mahe Fonua, Alex Sutcliffe, Daniel Smith, Greg Eden, Cheyse Blair, Suaia Matagi, Brad Martin, Jason Qareqare, Alex Mellor.
Leeds Rhinos: David Fusitu’a, Liam Sutcliffe, Ash Handley, Blake Austin, Aidan Sezer, Mikolaj Oledzki, Matt Prior, James Bentley, Rhyse Martin, Brad Dwyer, Richie Myler, Cameron Smith, Morgan Gannon, Sam Walters, Jarrod O’Connor, James Donaldson, Corey Johnson, Max Simpson, Jack Sinfield, Zak Hardaker.