Challenge Cup holders Warrington welcome reigning champions St Helens to the Halliwell Jones Stadium on Thursday evening in a huge Super League clash.
Steve Price’s men got the better of St Helens when they met at Wembley last August, securing a surprise 18-4 win in the Cup final to deny the Saints a Grand Final and cup double.
It was a different story in the league though with the Saints beating their rivals on all three occasions last year, winning 21-10 and 30-12 in the two away games against the Wolves and will be looking for the same again this time around.
But both teams enjoyed contrasting fortunes in the opening round of the 2020 Super League season with Saints, under new head coach Kristian Woolf, kicking-off with a thrashing of Salford Red Devils, while the Warrington went down narrowly away to the Wigan Warriors.
St Helens certainly look to be continuing their fantastic form of last season as they began their title defence with a 48-8 win at home to last year’s Grand Final opponents Salford.
New Saints boss Woolf, who has the unenviable task of trying to improve on what predecessor Justin Holbrook achieved in 2019, couldn’t have asked for a better start to the new season though still feels there is room for improvement.
“I’m very happy,” he said following the win. “We worked really hard in pre-season to put ourselves in a good position to start the season.
“We’ve got plenty of improvement in us. I think at different times, we lost our way a bit, particularly at the back end of the first half and we were a bit indisciplined coming out of our end.”
Warrington will be encouraged by the way that, despite playing for a large part of the match with 12 men – and at one point with 11 due to Mike Cooper’s yellow card – after co-captain Chris Hill was sent off in the first half they were still able to put up a decent fight right to the end.
As a result of that red card, Hill will be missing for three matches, beginning on Thursday, a decision which surprised Warrington coach Steve Price.
“I was surprised at the grading,” Price said. “If he had no previous form from last season, it would easily have been two matches. We’ll cop it. It was one of those things – there was no intent as Chris is not a malicious player by any means.”
Hill’s suspension and the absence of marquee signing Gareth Widdop, who is still sidelined due to an injury sustained in pre-season, could mean something of a reshuffle for the Wolves.
One of those who could benefit is loose forward Ellis Robson, who has been called into the first team from the club’s youth set-up and may well get his chance against the Saints having spent time on loan at Dewsbury, Rochdale and Widnes.
In the weekend’s other key games, Wigan will be looking to build on their opening week win over Warrington when they travel to face a Castleford side who beat newcomers Toronto Wolfpack in week 1 while Hull FC host Hull KR in the big derby having thrashed Leeds 30-4 at Headingly last weekend.
As for the Canadians, they will be looking to put that disappointment behind them when they visit a Salford side who were on the wrong end of a heavy defeat themselves a week ago when they were thrashed 48-8 by Grand Final winners St Helens.
Relegation favourites Huddersfield began their season with a win over Catalans and will be looking to inflict more pain on Leeds when the two meet on Sunday while the Dragons will be keen to get off the mark themselves when they face Wakefield who went down 30-12 to Hull KR last time out.
This weekend’s Super League Fixtures
Thursday 6th February
Warrington Wolves v St Helens 19:45
Saturday 8th February
Salford Red Devils v Toronto Wolfpack 14:00
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