The five rugby league games you must watch in March

League Express editor MARTYN SADLER recommends the matches you should go out of your way to watch in March.

Sunday, 3rd March
Telstra Premiership Round 1
South Sydney Rabbitohs v Manly Sea Eagles
Allegiant Stadium, Las Vegas (2.30am GMT)

The NRL season begins in the stadium that hosted this year’s NFL Super Bowl, but instead of the Chiefs and 49ers, it will be the Rabbitohs and Sea Eagles who play the first NRL game to be held in the northern hemisphere in the 65,000-capacity Allegiant Stadium, with that game to be followed by a clash between the Broncos and Roosters in an NRL double-header. The NRL is hoping for a crowd in excess of 40,000 and it has a five-year plan to popularise its competition in the United States. The first game of the new season will certainly be a historic encounter.

Thursday, 7th March
Telstra Premiership Round 1
Newcastle Knights v Canberra Raiders
McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle (9.00am)

The first NRL game of the season to actually be played in Australia will be the Round 1 clash between the Knights and the Raiders, with both clubs having a strong interest for English viewers. Former Huddersfield Giant Will Pryce and ex-Wigan star Kai Pearce-Paul could both debut for the Knights, with Pearce-Paul possibly facing his former Wigan team-mate Morgan Smithies, who is expected to debut for the Raiders alongside England star Elliott Whitehead. The Knights will probably draw a capacity attendance for a match between two sides that both made the play-offs in 2023.

Friday, 15th March
Betfred Championship Round 1
Wakefield Trinity v Bradford Bulls
The DIY Kitchens Stadium, Wakefield (8.00pm)

The opening round of the 2024 Betfred Championship will see newly-relegated Wakefield Trinity make their debut in the competition with a home clash against Bradford Bulls. Most pundits expect Trinity to win the competition convincingly before resuming their Super League journey in 2025 under Daryl Powell, but they are likely to face one of their stiffest challenges of the season from the Bulls, who have strengthened in the close season and who have ambitions of their own as a potential future Super League club. The Bulls have several former Trinity players in their ranks, including Lee Gaskell, Jorge Taufua and Joe Arundel and they will be aiming to shock their hosts in front of what is likely to be a big crowd.

Sunday, 17th March
Betfred League One Round 1
Hunslet v Newcastle Thunder
South Leeds Stadium, Leeds (3.00pm)

If Newcastle Knights are likely to play in front of 25,000 people at home, their Thunder counterparts in England are experiencing very different times, having been rescued from extinction during the close-season. Having already conceded more than 100 points this season against York and Wakefield, if Thunder are to have a long-term future, they will need to post some better results and their opening fixture in this season’s League One competition gives them a chance to put the record straight after their difficult start to the season in the 1895 and Challenge Cup competitions. Their opening league game has been reversed from a home fixture to away, due to the unavailability of Kingston Park, but any reader who wants to see rugby league succeed in the north-east should try to be at Hunslet to cheer them on.

Friday, 29th March
Betfred Super League
St Helens v Wigan Warriors
Totally Wicked Stadium, St Helens (3.00pm)

The annual Good Friday derby clash between St Helens and Wigan is always one of the most compelling clashes of the season and this year’s encounter promises to be no exception. With Wigan having taken away St Helens’ Super League crown in 2023, Saints will be determined to win it back this season and we can expect a capacity crowd to see another almighty battle. One of the elements of this game that gives it added interest is the likely return of former Saints star Luke Thompson in the Wigan ranks. The 2019 Harry Sunderland Trophy winner is likely to receive a dubious reception from the Saints fans.

First published in Rugby League World magazine, Issue 494 (March 2024)

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