2018 Grand Final runners-up Warrington welcome 2017 champions Leeds to the Halliwell Jones Stadium for this 2019 Super League round one game. Here’s everything you need to know.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
The Wire have won both of their pre season games, beating Widnes 38-12 in Ryan Atkins’ testimonial and Rochdale 24-20 with a much younger side. Although they won both games, not a lot can be taken from them. Last time in the league, they lost the Grand Final 12-4 against Wigan.
Leeds Rhinos have started a new era at the club with David Furner coming in, replacing former head coach Brian McDermott. They have had a relatively good pre-season, beating Wakefield (10-4), Doncaster (60-0), Coventry (20-16) and Featherstone (32-28). However, they did suffer deafeat to Castleford (24-26). Although winning four out of five in pre-season, they favoured youth in some games, so we still are unable to fully see the potential of this new look Leeds side.
However, their last league game was against Toronto, when they lost 16-17 through a late Gareth O’Brien drop goal.
Warrington vice-captain Kevin Brown has been ruled out for nine months with an ruptured Achilles. However, five new signings are in line to make their club offical debuts: Blake Austin, Jason Clark, Lama Tasi, Danny Walker and Jake Mamo.
Dec Patton has been confirmed by Steve Price to be taking over Brown, with Price saying: “It’s a great opportunity now for him to step up. He’s been waiting in the wings for quite a while now. He’s got a perfect opportunity now to stamp his mark on this football team.”
Warrington Wolves 19-man squad:
4. Ryan Atkins, 6. Blake Austin, 5. Josh Charnley, 9. Daryl Clark, 14. Jason Clark, 10. Mike Cooper, 3. Bryson Goodwin, 8. Chris Hill, 12. Jack Hughes, 18. Toby King, 2. Tom Lineham, 22. Jake Mamo, 13. Ben Murdoch-Masila, 15. Declan Patton, 17. Joe Philbin, 1. Stefan Ratchford, 16. Lama Tasi, 21. Danny Walker, 34. Ben Westwood.
David Furner has named his first official 19-man squad, naming new signings Konrad Hurrell, Tui Lolohea, Trent Merrin and James Donaldson. Jamie Jones-Buchanan is also named as he begins his 21st and final season. Kallum Watkins returns to the side following a eight-month spell out with a knee injury.
Ash Handley is set to play on the wing, taking over from former Rhino, Ryan Hall, after he left the club for Sydney Roosters.
Leeds Rhinos 19-man squad:
1. Jack Walker, 2. Tom Briscoe, 3. Kallum Watkins, 4. Konrad Hurrell, 5. Ash Handley, 6. Tui Lolohea, 7. Richie Myler, 8. Adam Cuthbertson, 9. Matt Parcell, 10. Brad Singleton, 11. Trent Merrin, 13. Stevie Ward, 14. Brad Dwyer, 15. Liam Sutcliffe, 16. Brett Ferres, 19. Mikolaj Oledzki, 20. Jamie Jones-Buchanan, 22. Cameron Smith, 25. James Donaldson.
HEAD TO HEAD
The last time these two met was in the 2018 Challenge Cup semi-final, when the Wolves ran riot winning 48-12, with tries coming from Tom Lineham (2), Josh Charnley (2), Kevin Brown, Ben Murdoch-Masilla, Toby King and Bryson Goodwin for the Wolves. Ryan Hall and Adam Cuthbertson scored the two tries for the Rhinos.
Out of the last five fixtures at the Halliwell Jones Stadium, Leeds have only won one, in the round one fixture last season. The Wire won the return game 33-22, with Harvey Livett scoring a hat-trick in a dominant display by Steve Price’s men.
Josh Charnley (Warrington) vs Ash Handley (Leeds)
The battle of the wingers will be something to keep an eye on in this one. In the Wolves corner is Josh Charnley. After returning to league following a 16-month spell at Sale Sharks, he impressed by scoring 25 tries in 28 games. The 27-year-old has a full pre-season behind him so will be looking to surpass his 2018 record, and continue with his blistering try scoring record.
Whilst on the Rhinos side is Ash Handley. With the departure of Ryan Hall, Leeds’ fans will be hoping that youth is the answer for the new number five. The 22 year old had his best season last year, playing 22 games and scoring 11 tries. Leeds fans will be hopeful that 2018 was a springboard for better things to come, especially after scoring three tries during pre-season.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Saturday 2nd February
Venue: Halliwell Jones Stadium
Referee: Chris Kendall
WHO WILL WIN?
I believe that the Wolves will win this one. Although it should be a tighter match compared to the Cup semi-final last year, I am going to say the Wire by 18.