engage Super League Round 19 Preview

Super League is hard to predict at the best of times, but the collision of Round 19 and England‘s Gillette International Test in France tonight will make it harder than ever.nnThe idea of an international match smack bang in the middle of the Super League season is one which has brought widespread concern over the consistency of results this weekend.nnThe England match is to be shown live on Sky, while the Friday night Super League fixture is also available on Sky’s interactive service.nnLeeds at home to Castleford would usually need only one prediction, especially with it being a top versus bottom clash. However, with six first-team players selected for the match in Toulouse, Leeds may find themselves in more of a contest on Saturday night than they first expected, especially after two straight defeats.nnGareth Ellis, Jamie Peacock, Kevin Sinfield, Danny McGuire, Rob Burrow and Keith Senior are all on international duty, while Castleford have no stars picked to face the French.nnKirk Dixon, Mark Leafa, Awen Guttenbeil, Ryan Clayton and Scott Moore are still injured, with new signing Mitchell Sargent still awaiting the completion of all paperwork before he can fly in from Australia.nnLeeds welcome back second-rower Ali Lauitiiti following five weeks out with a knee injury, while youngsters Joe Chandler and Michael Haley make their first appearances in the first team this season.nnNick Scruton begins his three-match ban after his dismissal against St Helens last weekend, and Carl Ablett will miss out after suffering an ankle injury in the same game.nnThe game won’t be a walk in the park for the reigning champions, but the odds on a Castleford win will still be as long as ever.nnWigan make their overdue return home on Friday night, after six weeks of maintenance work on the JJB Stadium pitch.nnHarlequins are the first team to face the Cherry & Whites (live on Sky) on their relaid pitch, and will be without wingman Rikki Sheriffe, prop Karl Temata and captain Rob Purdham (still out injured). 17-year-old Jamie O’Callaghan, Dave Williams and Dave Tootill step in in their absence.nnDarrell Goulding comes in at centre for Phil Bailey (hamstring), and Eamon O’Carroll and Lee Mossop replace Richard Mathers (dead leg) and Paul Prescott (back) respectively. Brian Noble also hopes to have second-rower Gareth Hock back from an ankle injury; he faces a late fitness test tonight.nnHome advantage may just be the key to victory tonight, with Wigan’s extended period on the road set to give them extra bit of motivation. Neither side is in good form, though, with both sides picking up just two wins from their last six. Harlequins’ poor away form may be the determining factor, though.nnOn Sunday, Bradford host Hull KR, where a defeat for the visitors would surely end their already fading hopes of a top six finish.nnHead coach Justin Morgan was boosted by the news captain Michael Vella has had a one-match ban uplifted, but his side will still have its work cut out to beat a Bradford side who beat the other Humberside outfit FC last Sunday.nnRovers have lost three on the run, and will need something special to come away from Odsal with anything.nnAnother play-off hopeful, Warrington, face a tough test against Hull FC on Sunday, who have come on leaps and bounds since the arrival of Richard Agar as head coach.nnWarrington coach James Lowes is boosted by the return of speedster Kevin Penny, although he will have to make do without key man Adrian Morley for the trip to the KC Stadium, after the prop was picked for England‘s match against France.nnFC will be without top try-scorer Craig Hall. The 20-year-old centre damaged his knee in the 36-22 loss at Bradford last Sunday, but won’t miss as much of the season as first feared.nnElsewhere on Sunday, Huddersfield travel to the GPW Recruitment Stadium to face red-hot St Helens. The Merseysiders have won eight straight games in the league, and despite having seven first-teamers out through international duty, will be heavy favourites to dispose of tenth-placed Huddersfield, who have no fresh injury trouble.nnLes Catalans have ten players in the French squad for tonight’s Test match, so have had their visit to Wakefield rearranged for Tuesday night(a game screened live on Sky). The game is perhaps the most difficult to call in Round 19, with both clubs in excellent runs of form.nnWakefield have won four from six, while the French outfit have won five from six, so the game is almost impossible to predict. Home advantage may be the difference in this one, although Les Catalans have only lost three on the road all season.nnAgain, this weekend of Super League XIII has all the attributes of any ordinary Super League weekend, but has been made even more unpredictable with the international match tonight. Another round of inconsistency on the cards, I reckon.

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