We take a closer look at how three key match-ups could shape the outcome of Sunday night’s game…
Two of the world’s best hookers will be clashing at the heart of this contest, and it is a match-up to get the purists purring with delight. Roby is an 80-minute machine of a player, a man who can make 70 tackles in a game and still have the energy to create out of dummy half. Luke is an aggressive, ball-handling hooker who likes to take the game right into the opposition faces. He also loves to carry out of dummy half, generating yards on the back of big forward drives from the likes of the Burgess brothers. A much more vocal and noticeable presence on the pitch than Roby, his self-confidence crosses the line into aggravation and arrogance at times. If Roby quietly goes about his effective business as usual, we could see the petulant side of Luke come out. If it does, Saints are probably winning the game.
Roby was massively missed by England in last year’s Four Nations, and a cursory glqnce at his Super League stats for this season shows why. In two games, the St Helens hooker has made 99 tackles, 15 of them from marker. He has carried the ball 24 times for 177 metres. He has also recorded three try assists. Much of St Helens‘ hopes for success hinge on how the 29-year-old performs.
There are some big front rowers on show on Sunday night, and the battle between George Burgess and Kyle Amor could be a right cracker. Both men are physically massive, and can carry with devastating results for the opposition. Amor is Saints’ top metre maker so far this season, with his 33 carries gaining 222 metres in the team’s two Super League games so far. With backing from Mose Masoe and Alex Walmsley, Amor will be keen to make a point against the NRL forwards when it comes to the big collisions in the middle unit.
Burgess needs no introduction, and he has become a massive star in the game since moving to Australia in 2012. He scored a memorable try in last year’s NRL Grand Final, and he is a massive threat close to the line with ball in hand. In his 20 NRL games last season, he carried 559 times for 2857 metres, a decent return. He will undoubtedly be a target for the Saints forwards, and if Amor and co can keep Burgess quiet, as well as his brother, they will have a fair chance of victory.
This really is a clash of the master versus the apprentice. What else is there to say about ‘GI’, apart from that he is probably the best all-round rugby player in the world right now. A true rugby league giant, he has played 33 times for Australia since making his debut in 2006. He has also played 24 times for Queensland in State of Origin, and has been an integral part of the state’s success over the last decade or so. Offering pace and power, as well as skill and a great ability to read a game, Inglis can produce world-class moments which win games, and Saints will need to be vigilant, even if he is having a quiet game.
Lomax has a long way to go before he can match that kind of reputation, and injuries have hampered his progress over the last 12 months or so. Nevertheless, he has consistently been hailed as one of England ‘s most promising players, after being converted from scrum-half to full-back by previous Saints coach Nathan Brown. Now 24 years old, and getting close to the point where he has to deliver on the big stage to prove his talent, this could be his moment to shine.