It’s the final round of the regular Super League season, with all six games getting underway at 8pm (BST) on Friday night. Current top spot holders Wigan Warriors will look to seal the League Leaders’ Shield across the borough at Leigh Leopards live on Sky Sports Arena in the only televised fixture.
Huddersfield Giants v Warrington Wolves
One of five clubs with little else left to play for but pride on Friday night, Huddersfield will bid farewell to some club legends of the game on Friday night.
Ending a 16-year association with the Giants, Jermaine McGillvary will depart for pastures new, while Chris McQueen will hang up his boots and head into retirement. Nathan Peats will also retire.
Warrington meanwhile will look to spoil the send off and cement their spot in the play-offs with a win, and they’ve been boosted with the return of George Williams, who was sorely missed in defeat against St Helens last week, sitting out with a thigh injury.
Notably, the Wolves included prop Paul Vaughan in their squad for the trip to the John Smith’s Stadium when it was released on Wednesday afternoon, but he will play no part with an appeal against a four-match ban for a Grade E charge rejected that night. The club haven’t confirmed that anyone will replace him in the squad, so as things stand they’re down to a travelling pack of 20.
Huddersfield: Milner, O’Brien, McQueen, Marsters, Livett, McGillvary, Ashworth, Connor, Bibby, Greenwood, Naiqama, Cudjoe, Yates, English, Peats, Wilson, Halsall, Hewitt, Ikahihifo, Lolohea, Pryce
Warrington: Ashton, Bullock, Clark, Crowther, Currie, Drinkwater, Dudson, Dufty, Harrison, Hayes, Kasiano, Mikaele, Nicholson, Philbin, Ratchford, Russell, Thewlis, Walker, Williams, Wrench
Prediction: After the year Warrington have had, the last thing they needed in the build-up to a crunch clash like this one was the Match Review Panel to hit one of their star men with a big ban. We’d be very surprised if it’s overturned, or even reduced, so we’re going to go with Huddersfield by 6 here. As you’ll see further down, we don’t believe it will be curtains for the Wolves if that does happen, though.
Leeds Rhinos v Castleford Tigers
What a drab affair this is. Neither side can achieve anything in terms of the Super League table, with both seeing their fate mathematically sealed last week.
After a 61-0 drubbing at Catalans, the Rhinos are now officially out of the play-off picture, and rightly so after a really poor year. Boss Rohan Smith has Sam Walters back at his disposal following suspension for one last time, with the exciting youngster moving to Wigan next season.
He replaces another young pup in Leon Ruan, who was forced off with a dislocated elbow in France last time out. Nene Macdonald remains over in Australia following the birth of his child, while Leeds’ injury list remains a lengthy one. Liam Tindall could also make his last appearance for the club.
Cas meanwhile see Kenny Edwards return, while influential players like Greg Eden and Suaia Matagi will play their last games for the club, with the Tigers looking to lower the age profile of their squad in 2024 as confirmed by Director of Rugby Operations Danny Wilson.
Danny Ward also includes academy prospect Fletcher Rooney in his 21 for the trip to Headingley. The teenager played for Yorkshire in a recent Academy Origin series against Lancashire.
Leeds: Fusitu’a, Newman, Handley, Oledzki, Martin, Smith, O’Connor, Lisone, Olpherts, Holroyd, McDonnell, Gannon, Hooley, Walters, Tindall, Donaldson, Johnson, Sinfield, Edgell, Lumb, Nicholson-Watton
Castleford: Eden, Turner, Miller, Lawler, Edwards, Mellor, Massey, Broadbent, Mustapha, Matagi, Robb, Martin, Wallis, Hall, Qareqare, Watts, Johnstone, Tsikrikas, Horne, Austin, Rooney
Prediction: Everyone at both of these clubs will just be wanting Friday night’s game over and done with to say goodbye to a more than forgettable 2023. Leeds have been absolutely woeful in their last two, and we think that will be the case again here. Cas by 10.
Leigh Leopards v Wigan Warriors
In his pre-match press conference, Leigh boss Adrian Lam revealed there were doubts over the fitness of captain John Asiata, Frankie Halton and Zak Hardaker.
The first of those two are included in his 21-man squad despite having hamstring strains. Both sat out last week’s win against Wakefield alongside Hardaker, who misses out again with a broken hand which now looks like it could rule him out for the rest of the season.
Lam’s side must win to cement home advantage in their play-off clash with Hull KR unless the Robins fail to win at Wakefield. The Leopards though face a Wigan side who also need a win to secure the League Leaders’ Shield for the first time in three years.
Matt Peet names an unchanged 21-man squad for their trip across the borough, with Liam Farrell and Brad O’Neill both set for returns having been rested last Friday as the Warriors beat Castleford on home soil. The Cherry and Whites will though be without Liam Byrne for the rest of the year, as confirmed earlier this week.
Leigh: Briscoe, Chamberlain, Charnley, Mellor, Lam, Amone, Ipape, Mulhern, Wardle, Hughes, Asiata, Nakubuwai, Reynolds, Holmes, O’Brien, Davis, O’Donnell, Seumanufagai, Halton, Gildart
Wigan: Field, French, King, Wardle, Marshall, Cust, Smith, Powell, Farrell, Smithies, Ellis, Pearce-Paul, Shorrocks, Mago, Thornley, O’Neill, Miski, Hill, Nsemba, Hampshire, Dupree
Prediction: Unfortunately for Leigh, injuries are now hampering them. That’s been evident over the last few weeks, and is the last thing you need when facing a rampant Wigan side going for silverware. The Warriors will win here, and get their hands on the League Leaders’ Shield, in our opinion. We’ll go the Warriors by 20.
Salford Red Devils v Catalans Dragons
Another game where it’s a must-win for both sides as play-off chasing and/or hopefuls Salford host Catalans with the French side knowing victory will cement their top two spot. A Dragons win could also see them win the League Leaders’ Shield should Wigan slip up.
The Red Devils – who earlier this week were plagued by illness – have to win to be in with a chance of getting into the top six for a second year running, and even if they do, they need Warrington to slip up.
Paul Rowley is without the suspended King Vuniyayawa, but is able to welcome back Brad Singleton after he completed a ban of his own. Adam Sidlow also comes into the pack to make it a full complement of 21 for the first time in a few weeks.
Initially, Steve McNamara made just one change to his squad from their big win over Leeds last weekend with Arthur Mourgue replacing 20-year-old Cesar Rouge. He’s been forced into another late change though, with Mickael Goudemand drafted in to replace Fouad Yaha. It’s unknown why that change was required.
Salford: Brierley, Sio, Watkins, Lafai, Burgess, Croft, Sneyd, Ormondroyd, Ackers, Dixon, Stone, Partington, Atkin, Addy, Sidlow, Borouh, Costello, Hellwell, Greenwood, Cross, Singleton
Catalans: Mourgue, Davies, Keighran, Yaha, May, Pearce, McMeeken, McIlorum, Bousquet, Whitley, Seguier, Garcia, Da Costa, Navarrete, Chan, Romano, Ikuvalu, Dezaria, Johnstone, Ma’u, Tomkins
Prediction: As teased above, while we think Warrington may slip up, we can’t see it costing them with Salford’s test a big one. Catalans looked very good against Leeds, and we think they’ll get the job done to finish in that top two on points difference. The Dragons by 22.
St Helens v Hull FC
In probably the biggest squad news of the week, Saints have veteran prop Alex Walmsley back at their disposal and he’s named in the squad for Friday night by boss Paul Wellens as one of four changes.
The 33-year-old had been expected to be out for the season after his injury picked up in their Challenge Cup semi-final defeat to Leigh back in July. Will Hopoate, Konrad Hurrell and George Delaney all also make their respective returns from injury with the Red Vee getting a huge boost in their quest for an unprecedented five-peat.
Lewis Baxter, Tee Ritson, Matthew Foster and Wesley Bruines are the four to drop out, while visitors Hull will see 11 men depart following Friday night’s game, including retiring pair Jamie Shaul and Scott Taylor.
The Black and Whites have captain Carlos Tuimavave and Zach Jebson back in their 21 for the trip to the Totally Wicked Stadium, with that duo replacing Liam Sutcliffe and Danny Houghton.
St Helens: Welsby, Makinson, Hopoate, Percival, Bennison, Lomax, Dodd, Walmsley, Roby, Lees, Mata’utia, Batchelor, Knowles, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Sironen, Bell, Davies, Royle, Hurrell, Delaney, Mbye
Hull FC: Hoy, Swift, Sutcliffe, McIntosh, Clifford, Satae, Savelio, Lane, Fash, Lovodua, Cator, Scott, Brown, Litten, Barron, Gardiner, Taylor, Staveley, Dwyer, Martin, Jebson
Prediction: Saints are the ‘underdogs’ in terms of the top two and the League Leaders’ Shield, and while we don’t expect either Wigan or Catalans to slip up, we still think the Merseyside outfit will hammer Hull, who are in the five with nothing to play for. We’d be surprised if it’s not by 30 or more.
Wakefield Trinity v Hull KR
Already relegated Wakefield make five changes to their squad as they bow out of Super League, at least for the next 12 months or so. Jai Whitbread and Kevin Proctor were both hit with suspensions following the defeat by Leigh in golden point last week which confirmed their demotion.
Elsewhere, Jai Whitbread, Harry Bowes and Innes Senior all drop out. Will Dagger returns to the pack alongside Renouf Atoni, Oli Pratt, Harvey Smith and Jordan Schofield.
KR already have their top six confirmed, but as touched on earlier, a big win at Trinity combined with a Leigh defeat would see them assume home advantage in the first week of the play-offs with a 4th-place finish.
Willie Peters makes just one change to his squad with Rowan Milnes returning in place of Rhys Kennedy.
Wakefield: Jowitt, Lino, Battye, Hood, Ashurst, Tanginoa, Pitts, Kay, Bowden, Atoni, Kershaw, Windrow, Pratt, Dagger, Gale, Croft, Franco, Salabio, Griffin, Smith, Schofield
Hull KR: Ryan, Opacic, Kenny-Dowall, Hall, Abdull, Sue, Parcell, King, Linnett, Minchella, Litten, Batchelor, Storton, Lewis, Milnes, Hadley, Senior, Luckley, Aydin, Walker, Schneider
Prediction: Just like with Hull FC above, we can’t see Wakefield putting up too much of a fight with nothing to play for on Friday night, even in front of their home fans. KR have been rampant in recent weeks, and a really big win here wouldn’t come as that much of a surprise, nor would them taking that 4th spot and forcing Leigh into a trip to Craven Park. The Robins by 46.