The sole Sunday game sees new boys London Broncos in their return to Super League against the ever-consistent Wakefield Trinity. Here’s everything you need to know.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
London Broncos come into their season opener off the back of a five-game winning streak, spanning a surprise Million Pound Game victory against Toronto Wolfpack. Their pre-season form has been similarly impressive to that which they ended 2018 on, beating Doncaster 64-4 and Leigh Centurions 20-0, both away from home.
Wakefield had a disappointing end to a somewhat promising season with defeats to Warrington and Castleford in their last two games. This season, on the other hand, Wakefield look to have had good preparation in their pre-season with two wins from two. The first was a 30-24 win at home against Hull FC, which was consolidated with a 28-24 defeat of Huddersfield in front of their home crowd once more.
London Broncos will kick off the season giving potential London Super League debuts to every new signing.
Kieran Dixon, James Cunningham, Will Lovell and Alex Walker are the only four survivors from the 2014 relegation in the 19-man squad, while London have also named four home-grown players for their season opener.
London 19-man squad:
6. Jordan Abdull, 13. Sadiq Adebiyi, 8. Eddie Battye, 7. James Cunningham, 5. Kieran Dixon, 17. Matt Fleming, 14. Matty Fozard, 16. Matt Gee, 10. Mark Ioane, 4. Elliot Kear, 11. Will Lovell, 18. Nathan Mason, 19. Ryan Morgan, 9. Eloi Pelissier, 12. Jay Pitts, 15. Greg Richards, 1. Alex Walker, 2. Rhys Williams, 20. Luke Yates.
Wakefield field a near full-strength team for their season opener, with only Pauli Pauli missing out to injury. Pauli Pauli, however, is a huge loss to Wakefield and would have undoubtedly added to their already weighty pack with the inclusion of David Fifita.
Craig Huby is a crucial omission from the squad considering London are characteristically troubled by a big pack.
Wakefield 19-man squad:
16. Tinirau Arona, 18. Joe Arundel, 11. Matty Ashurst, 19. James Batchelor, 7. Danny Brough, 26. Jordan Crowther, 10. Anthony England, 8. David Fifita, 1. Ryan Hampshire, 14. Justin Horo, 2. Tom Johnstone, 5. Ben Jones-Bishop, 22. George King, 15. Craig Kopczak, 4. Reece Lyne, 6. Jacob Miller, 13. Tyler Randell, 3. Bill Tupou, 9. Kyle Wood.
HEAD TO HEAD
The two sides last met in 2014 – in London Broncos relegation season – and Wakefield won comfortably in both the home and away legs. In addition, Wakefield have been the dominant force in the fixture over the past 10 years, winning 9 of 12 matches played between the two sides. London’s three wins, however, have come when playing at home – although the last time London Broncos won, loose forward Sadiq Adebiyi was just 15 years old.
London Broncos strengthened their industrious pack with the off-season additions of Greg Richards and Nathan Mason and will look to the pair to take control in the forward battle against a massive Wakefield pack. Nullifying their primary and most dangerous adversary, David Fifita will be the key to winning the battle up front between the two teams. Fifita has proved a class act for Wakefield and threatens with both his physically as well as his ball-playing ability in the front line. London will likely have not faced someone with such capacity in the Championship and will need to be both physical and alert to dampen his threat.
On the other hand, Fifita will most likely be partnered by Craig Kopczak up front, who’s on the wrong side of thirty and comes into this off the back of a loss against a weaker London pack in last season’s Super 8s. On the face of it, the battle upfront looks as though it’s a foregone conclusion in Wakefield’s favour; however, if London are able to play fast and tire the heavier Wakefield side out, they have a great chance in this one.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Sunday 2nd February
Venue: Trailfinders Sports Club
Referee: Tom Grant
WHO WILL WIN?
Undoubtedly, Wakefield are the better team on paper in terms of experience and star quality; however, London likely have the best group camaraderie and team spirit in the whole competition – as seen in the Million Pound Game. Regardless, Wakefield were a top 5 team last year and don’t look like falling short of that this season, so their class should carry them through despite playing on a foreign (artificial) surface away from home. Wakefield by 12.