There’s plenty to get excited about on Thursday night.
It’s the Super League leaders against one of their main rivals for the title this season. It’s last year’s great entertainers against the side who appear to have taken that title from them this year.
It’s another opportunity to see the mercurial Ben Barba in action – but, for English rugby league fans, there is an even more exciting subplot to track than the brilliance of Barba or the evolution of Justin Holbrook’s St Helens.
That’s because, barring a late injury withdrawal or shock team selection, two of England’s most exciting young half-backs will square off against one another properly on Thursday.
Sure, we’ve had glimpses of Jake Trueman against Danny Richardson already this season; but in the recent Challenge Cup clash between St Helens and Castleford, Trueman spent most of the game on the bench, for example.
However, his wonderful performance – which belied his teenage years – at St James’ Park last weekend should ensure he keeps his place in Castleford’s starting line-up for Thursday night’s thriller: which means a head-to-head showdown with Richardson in the halves.
With both players in Paul Anderson’s England Knights squad, it is not unreasonable to expect that they will potentially be partnering one another on the tour to Papua New Guinea this autumn. Few, therefore, will be more excited watching them do battle on Thursday than Anderson, knowing he has both at his disposal later this year.
They have taken contrasting routes to get to this point. Trueman has found holding down a place in the side slightly harder than Richardson, who has been Holbrook’s scrum-half since day one of the 2018 season.
Trueman has been coming on from the bench, or even starting at fullback for a good few weeks. Now, it looks as though, with Luke Gale out long-term, there is a position there for the talented teenager to make his own in the halves over the coming months.
For English rugby league – whose ability to produce standout half-backs has been called into question on more than one occasion in recent years – it is reason alone to tune in on Thursday. The mere fact so many of us will watch without any allegiance to either side means we’ll be able to take a step back and watch two supremely talented young men work their magic for their respective sides.
One will likely end the night with two points and the majority of the headlines. But both are destined for bright futures within our game. And in truth, how many times has the sport been able to get excited about a battle like this in recent years?
It can only be a good thing for the game in this country.