THE 2023 Super League season is upon us as Warrington Wolves kick off the year at home to Leeds Rhinos on Thursday night.
Leigh Leopards, upon their promotion from the Championship, will host Salford Red Devils on Friday night with Wakefield Trinity also taking on Catalans Dragons on the same night.
Hull KR will be at Craven Park to host Wigan Warriors on Saturday afternoon for Channel 4’s first game of the year with Hull FC doing battle with Castleford Tigers on Sunday.
Huddersfield Giants and St Helens’ fixture is, of course, postponed due to Saints’ World Club Challenge commitments.
But, who will run out victorious in round one?
Warrington Wolves vs Leeds Rhinos
One of the most intriguing opening games in recent Super League history, the Halliwell Jones Stadium plays host to Rohan Smith’s Leeds Rhinos. Warrington boss Daryl Powell will want to kick off 2023 with a win following a dismal 2022, but it will be a major test given the Rhinos’ success towards the end of last season. The Wolves will be without Gil Dudson whilst Josh McGuire is incldued in Powell’s squad despite potentially facing a six-game ban. Leeds have some major injury concerns of their own with James Bentley, Harry Newman, Nene MacDonald, Mikolaj Oledzki and Luke Hooley sitting out but six new signings could make their debuts. Home comforts could prove key here to ensure Powell and Warrington start with a bang.
Warrington by 6
Wakefield Trinity vs Catalans Dragons
There couldn’t really be a better time to play Catalans Dragons given the February weather and the fact that the French club still have signings to make following a number of serious injury concerns. Wakefield, meanwhile will be without Liam Hood and Josh Bowden following injuries during pre-season but the likes of Kevin Proctor, Renouf Atoni and Samisoni Langi will be hoping to make their debuts. With Catalans halfback Tyrone May out with injury, Cesar Rouge will likely be given the nod in the halves by Steve McNamara but without Sam Tomkins, Mike McMeeken and Fouad Yaha, the Dragons could struggle. And in front of a vociferous Trinity crowd, the West Yorkshire side could pull off an upset here.
Wakefield by 4
Leigh Leopards vs Salford Red Devils
It promises to be an absolute cracker at the Leigh Sports Village on Friday night with the extensive pre-match entertainment on show hoping to translate onto the field. The newly-promoted Leigh Leopards proved in their pre-season loss to Warrington that they will be no easy pushovers in 2023, whilst the Salford Red Devils will be buoyed by the news of a long-term contract extension to star halfback Brodie Croft. Head coach Paul Rowley admitted that there are a number of players who have injury concerns and with a smaller squad than most, that could hurt Salford as the season wears on. The Leopards will want to prove to the rest of Super League what they can do and it could be the perfect stage on Friday.
Leigh by 8
Hull KR vs Wigan Warriors
The first live game on Channel 4 of the 2023 Super League season sees Hull KR host the Wigan Warriors at Craven Park. It’s a new-look Rovers team and coaching staff with Willie Peters at the helm and the likes of Tom Opacic, Rhys Kennedy and Jessie Sue set to debut. Meanwhile, Wigan have a settled squad with Bevan French and Jai Field tipped to excel once more for Matt Peet’s men in 2023. The addition of Toby King and Jake Wardle will certainly help given the departures of Jake Bibby and Zak Hardaker whilst the partnership of Harry Smith and Cade Cust will impress once more. In front of a passionate, sellout crowd, though, the Warriors will have their work cut out.
Wigan by 4
Hull FC vs Castleford Tigers
The week building up to this fixture has been dominated by the Joe Westerman saga which has threatened to derail a return to the MKM Stadium for former Hull FC boss Lee Radford. Radford, as Castleford head coach, was successful against the Black and Whites at home and away in 2022, but Hull are a different proposition in 2023. Under Tony Smith there is already a feel-good factor around West Hull whilst new signings Jake Clifford, Tex Hoy, Brad Dwyer and Liam Sutcliffe are being tipped to impress for their new club this season. The Tigers will likely have Jacob Miller, Gareth Widdop, Albert Vete and Jack Broadbent making their debut in a much-changed Castleford outfit. That being said, Hull should have too much at home.
Hull FC by 12