The new season is approaching fast on the horizon, and today’s friendlies will see a number of debutants and stars appearing for the first time in 2016.
There are some big games on the schedule today, with a number of all-Super League ties to look forward to.
Here’s five subplots from today’s games that are well worth keeping an eye on.
Can Hull KR pick themselves back up after a torrid week?
It’s not been the best seven days for Chris Chester and Hull KR. They were thumped 38-6 by Huddersfield in their opening pre-season friendly, and will be without Kevin Larroyer, Shaun Lunt and also captain Terry Campese for the season opener against Castleford at the start of next month.
Today’s Hull derby offers KR a chance to give their fans a pick-me-up and confidence ahead of Super League XXI – but another heavy defeat, and all eyes will be on the Robins as the new season approaches.
Will Leigh lay down another strong marker?
It was a very youthful Wigan side that Leigh Centurions edged past last week, but it was a victory in the ‘Battle of the Borough’ for the Centurions, nonetheless.
Paul Rowley’s men will face a much tougher test today though, with the big guns of Warrington their next opponents in pre-season. The Wolves have named an incredibly strong squad for the game, with Tony Smith promising last week he would roll out his big guns. The likes of Gidley, Sandow and Westerman are all involved, and it will be a great opportunity for Leigh to prove their promotion credentials if they can score a win today.
Can a new-look Bradford impress?
Today is the first opportunity for Bradford Bulls fans to see their side ahead of the new season, which begins for them with a home clash against Featherstone at the start of next month.
The Bulls are no doubt still reeling from being the first ever losers in the Million Pound Game late last year, but James Lowes’ new-look side can begin to put that behind them today when they face Leeds in their opening pre-season game. The Bulls have shuffled the decks somewhat since that loss to Wakefield, with the likes of Jake Mullaney, Harry Siejka and Dane Nielsen all departing. Can their new-look team catch the eye against the Super League champions?
Can Theo continue to pile the pressure on the regulars at St Helens?
Theo Fages caught the eye in a big way last week for St Helens – he impressed during their pre-season friendly against Dewsbury, gaining the man of the match award in Monday’s League Express.
He gets another chance to impress today, this time against Super League opposition in the shape of Widnes. Fages is expected to be first off the rank if one of James Roby, Luke Walsh or Travis Burns miss out on selection during the year, but the French international is a phenomenal talent that could easily nudge ahead of one of those guys in the pecking order with a strong pre-season.
If he impresses again today, it will be interesting to see whether he’s done enough for a starting shirt when the Saints take on Huddersfield in the season opener next month.