Category Archives: ESL/International RL

Former NRL player Tuimavave extends Hull FC stay

Hull FC centre and halfback Carlos Tuimavave

His NRL stint may have been short but Carlos Tuimavave has seen success in the Super League with Hull FC and has re-signed with the club.

Tuimavave, who played in 14 NRL games for the New Zealand Warriors and Newcastle Knights, has been with Hull FC since 2016.

Also a Samoan international, Tuimavave has been in stellar form for the black and whites alongside another former NRL player in Mahe Fonua.

Tuimavave is pleased to have his future sorted and was quick to thank the city and its fans.

“I’m really happy to sign at the club long term, it was an easy decision as my family are really happy and settled in Hull,” said Tuimavave.

“We love the club, the city, and the fans.

“It is a place we have made our home and I’m fully focused now on playing my best footy for the team and seeing where the next few years take us.”

Tuimavave also thanked the club and knows that Hull FC are going places in the league.

“The club is ambitious and we want to be challenging for honours and that is something I want to play a part in,” continued Tuimavave.

“I’d like to thank the club for their ongoing support, and to Adam and James who have been great to me and my family since we got here.

“I really couldn’t see myself playing anywhere else.”

Andy Last, Hull FC’s interim head coach, expressed his satisfaction in retaining the now veteran at the club.

“We have two of the best strike centres in the competition and they have been our in-form and most consistent players this season, as Carlos has been since he arrived at the club in 2016,” Last said.

“When you talk about building a squad around culture, consistency and professionalism, Carlos is the epitome of that.

“At his age and experience, he is in his prime and I know he really has aspirations to help take his career and the club forward.

“We are looking for him to take a leading role in our group, as well as help nurture an exciting crop of young backs we have in our system.”

Carlos Tuimavave in his playing days for the Newcastle Knights

Inglis makes shock rugby league return with Super League side Warrington

Greg Inglis playing for the South Sydney Rabbitohs

It probably feels like yesterday that Greg Inglis decided to retire from rugby league. Today, he has signed with the Warrington Wolves. 

Inglis, who last played rugby league for the South Sydney Rabbitohs before a knee injury forced him to retire, makes the surprise return.

It is Warrington who will nab his services for the 2021 season.

Seen by many as one of the best players in the modern game, Inglis has done it all in the NRL.

He has won premierships, a Clive Churchill Medal, and won numerous Origin and International tournaments.

With a total of 263 NRL games to his name on top of representative footy, Inglis has a wealth of experience.

“I can’t wait to get over there and play for a club that has so much rich heritage,” Inglis said.

“I’ve seen the success the team have had in the Challenge Cup and I want to help the team to deliver more glory.”

Inglis knows that the English fans are a vocal bunch and this was an opportunity he could not pass up.

“I’ve played over in England many times in representative footy and love how passionate and vocal the supporters are,” Inglis continued.

“To get the opportunity to live in the UK, to play for such a powerhouse club that I believe is on the rise is something I’m looking forward to and hopefully I can add value to the team.”

It is believed that a friendship with Warrington coach Steve Price is what got the deal over the line.

“Greg is a world class athlete and has received the highest honours within our game,” said Price.

“Having had 12 months out of the sport he has had time to refresh both mentally and physically, and he is focused on having a positive influence on Warrington Wolves.

“I’m looking forward to working with him on a professional and personal level, and I’m excited to welcome him into our group.”

Inglis’ signing is subject to getting a visa.

Welsh rugby league: A statistical journey

Dual Welsh international Iestyn Harris

Stats, they present so much. Dominance, longevity, success. So sit back, as we look over Welsh rugby league. 

The likes of Rhys Williams, Iestyn Harris and Jim Sullivan have donned the red of Wales, all enjoying personal success.

How do they fare against their other compatriots? Which coaches enjoyed success?

As a note, we have ensured these stats are as accurate as possible (if there are issues, please point them out), including points and data for all international matches that were available.

Wales Leading Try Scorer

Rhys Williams – 22
Christiaan Roets – 13
Iestyn Harris – 12
Elliot Kear – 12
Ian Watson – 11
Arthur Daniels – 9
Lee Briers – 9
Adam Hughes – 9
Damian Gibson – 8
Mark Lennon – 8

Wales Leading Point Scorer

Iestyn Harris – 12 tries & 58 goals (164 pts)
Jim Sullivan – 3 tries & 58 goals (123 pts)*
Lee Briers – 9 tries, 27 goals & 6 field goals (100 pts)
Jonathan Davies – 3 tries, 39 goals & 5 field goals (97 pts)*
Rhys Williams – 22 tries (88 pts)
David Watkins – 2 tries, 31 goals & 4 field goals (74 pts)*

Please note, players with asterisks next to their points total are indicative of when tries were three points and field goals were two points.

Welsh leading-try scorer Rhys WilliamsPlayers to have scored three tries for Wales

  1. Will Davies scored four tries on October 7, 1911 v Australia.
  2. Keiron Cunningham scored four tries on June 18, 1995 v USA.
  3. William Williams scored three tries on April 9, 1910 v England.
  4. Frank Evans scored three tries on December 4, 1926 v NZ.
  5. Phil Ford scored three tries on October 27, 1991 v PNG.
  6. Iestyn Harris scored three tries on June 11, 1995 v USA.
  7. Simon Quinnell scored three tries on June 11, 1995 v USA.
  8. Adrian Hadley scored three tries on June 18, 1995 v USA.
  9. Anthony Sullivan scored three tries at the 1995 World Cup v France.
  10. Iestyn Harris scored three tries on June 5, 1996 v France.
  11. Kris Tassell scored three at the 2000 World Cup v Cook Islands.
  12. Adam Hughes scored three tries on October 26, 2003 v Russia.
  13. Lenny Woodard scored three tries on October 26, 2003 v Russia.
  14. Damian Gibson scored three tries on November 9, 2007 v Lebanon.
  15. Christiaan Roets scored three tries on October 24, 2009 v Serbia.
  16. Elliot Kear scored three tries on October 10, 2010 v Scotland.
  17. Rhys Williams scored three tries on October 10, 2010 v Scotland.
  18. Rhys Williams scored three tries on November 3, 2018 v Scotland.

Head coaching records (from 1975)

Clive Griffiths – 15/25 (60%)
Martin Hall – 4/7 (57.1%)
John Kear – 8/16 (50%) (1 draw)
Iestyn Harris – 7/18 (38.9%)
Les Pearce – 3/9 (33.3%)
David Watkins – 1/3 (33.3%)
Neil Kelly – 1/4 (25%)
Ron Simpson – 0/1 (0%)
Bill Francis – 0/1 (0%)
John Mantle – 0/1 (0%)
John Dixon – 0/1 (0%)
Stuart Wilkinson – 0/2 (0%)
Thomas Coslett – 0/5 (0%)

 

Hulking Murdoch-Masila to join Warriors from 2021

Departing Warrington Wolves forward Ben Murdoch-Masila

Like many players, Ben Murdoch-Masila has been rejuvenated with a Super League stint and the New Zealand Warriors are the beneficiaries.

Murdoch-Masila will join the Warriors side from 2021 on a three-year deal.

The former NRL player made the move to the Super League and has since taken his game to a new level.

Showing brute strength at all levels, including for Tonga, Murdoch-Masila will add some size and venom to the Warriors pack.

“Ben is right up among the best forwards in the game right now and he had plenty of clubs trying to sign him,” said Vodafone Warriors recruitment manager Peter O’Sullivan.

“It’s a huge signing for us, one we couldn’t be happier with.

“Ben always had enormous potential and has now matured into a total professional. He’ll be a real asset to have back in the NRL.”

A product of the Wests Tigers associated with Keebra Park High School, the man nicknamed BMM had a solid stint in the NRL previously.

His previous 52 NRL games came with both the Wests Tigers and Penrith Panthers.

The move back to the NRL excites Murdoch-Masila.

“I’ve always left the door open for the opportunity of an NRL comeback,” he said on Warrington’s website.

“My daughter has spent her life here and all she knows is the Wire (Warrington Wolves).

“When this opportunity came around I couldn’t say no to taking her home to meet mine and Roxy’s families.”

Although his time at Warrington will end at season’s end, Murdoch-Masila praised them for everything.

“I want to thank all at the club for what they have done for not only me but for my wife and daughter too,” continued Murdoch-Masila.

“They’ve gone above and beyond for us and after a tough first two seasons for me, and a not so good start, I will do whatever it takes to help repay what the Wire has done for me and do my best for the remainder of the year.

“To be remembered as the Tongan beast.”

Roosters beat St Helens to register back-to-back World Club Challenge titles

Sydney Roosters five-eighth Luke Keary

Asserting their recent dominance further, the Sydney Roosters won another World Club Challenge, their second in a row.

Some early penalties against the Roosters and a poor start gave St Helens the momentum they needed.

It was NRL bound prop Luke Thompson who scored the first try after good lead-up play from halfback Theo Fages.

Two quick tries in succession for the Roosters saw them take the lead and go up 8-6.

A well-constructed shortside play saw Luke Keary provide the ball on a platter for winger Daniel Tupou.

Kyle Flanagan then turned provider for the second try to find Joseph Manu for his first, giving the Roosters a narrow lead.

Some resolute defence from both sides coupled with errors saw ample opportunities to score but they were denied.

In the end, it was Manu’s second try that most likely sealed the win for the Roosters.

His second was the more impressive as he took the line on and carried defenders over the line to score.

The icing on the cake then came when Victor Radley & Sio Siua Taukeiaho combined for Keary to score.

There was a final consolation for St Helens, though, as Alex Walmsley scored late on but it was too little, too late.

“We knew we were chasing a bit of history with the two in a row,” said Keary.

“I think five for the Roosters, so this one was pretty special for us.

“It definitely wasn’t give to us. We were basically on the back foot for that entire second half.”

Saints head coach Kristian Woolf was pleased with his side’s effort but rued missed opportunities.

“Very proud of the effort,” said Woolf.

“For long periods of that game, I thought we were well on top physically.

“We created a lot of good opportunities and were good defensively, but when we had those opportunities, we just didn’t ice a couple of them tonight.”

Thompson to join Bulldogs from 2021

Incoming Canterbury Bulldogs prop Luke Thompson

Regarded as one of the best props in Super League, Luke Thompson will depart St Helens to join the Canterbury Bulldogs in 2021.

Informed of Thompson’s decision last week, St Helens admit they are sad but would not stand in the prop’s way.

“We were informed last week that Luke has decided to join Canterbury Bulldogs next season,” said club Chairman Eamonn McManus.

“We accept and totally respect Luke’s decision and wish him nothing but success in his career and in his life.

“We are absolutely sure that he will be absolutely committed to the Club and to his teammates for the rest of this season.”

Should he wish to return to the Super League, St Helens say they will be waiting with open arms.

“There’s no hiding from the fact that this is a bitter disappointment to all of us,” continued McManus.

“Luke has been connected to the Club since the age of 11 and has developed into an absolute top player at 24 years old.

“If ever he decides to return to England and to Super League then there would be a red carpet waiting for him at St. Helens.”

Still a young player, Bulldogs CEO Andrew Hill opened up about the leadership qualities that Thompson has.

“Even though Luke is at the start of his career, we have been really impressed by his on-field leadership qualities and his desire to be the best.

“He is an excellent player who has become a star of the Super League and has shown what he is capable of at International level.

“We are looking forward to him getting the chance to show everyone in the NRL what he is capable of.”

Thompson is excited about the history of the Bulldogs and looks forward to joining them from 2021.

“Getting the chance to join the Bulldogs and be a part of a club with so much history and with such passionate fans is very exciting,” said Thompson.

“Having spoken to many people at the club and listened to their plans for the future, I know that they are building for success and I’m looking forward to being part of that.”

With one eye on his Bulldogs adventure, Thompson says his focus will remain with St Helens for 2020.

“When you join a club like the Bulldogs you know about the players and the culture that has gone before you,” continued Thompson.

“The fact that second best isn’t good enough and that was something that was important to me.

I look forward to joining them for the 2021 season and getting to be a part of a talented squad that is hungry for success.

“This will now enable me to focus on having a great final season with St Helens.”

England appoint Wane as new head coach

New England coach Shaun Wane

Wayne Bennett is out and Shaun Wane is in. That is the change at the top for the England national team. 

Wane will take over the reins from the departing Bennett on a two-year contract.

The former Wigan head coach returns to rugby league from a stint in Scottish rugby.

Wane is honoured to have the chance in the role with some big tournaments coming up.

“I am honoured to be appointed Head Coach of my country’s national team at such an exciting and important time for Rugby League in England,” Wane said.

“We have a three-Test Ashes series against Australia this autumn, and after that we host the World Cup in 2021.

“Everyone who knows me knows that I’ve always loved the game of Rugby League, and been proud of British Rugby League.”

With players on offer in both England and Australia, Wane looks forward to success involving players from both areas.

“I’m looking forward so much to starting work with the outstanding Rugby League players we have in this country,” Wane continued.

Also the guys who have enjoyed success in Australia in recent years, to do all we can to win the World Cup next year.”

The appointment of Wane is one that excites those associated with the English governing body, the Rugby Football League.

“We think this is an exciting appointment that will be welcomed by England Rugby League supporters as we prepare for this year’s Ashes series, and the 2021 Rugby League World Cup,” said RFL CEO, Ralph Rimmer.

“Shaun is passionate about the game and his country, and also an outstanding coach, as shown by his record in eight seasons as Wigan’s head coach, a major feature of which was the success he and the club had in developing so many homegrown players.

“With two years to go in the lead up to RLWC2021, a full review was always programmed in to follow from the 2019 Great Britain tour of New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.

Super League preview part two

In part two of our 2020 Super League preview we examine Salford, St. Helens, Toronto, Wakefield, Warrington and Wigan.


Salford Red Devils

2019 finish: 3rd

Ground: AJ Bell Stadium

Coach: Ian Watson

Captain(s): Lee Mossop and Mark Flanagan

Salford Red Devils captain Lee Mossop

After one of the most surprising seasons in recent history Ian Watson’s men defied the odds to finish 3rd and make their way to their first ever Super League Grand Final.

However, as a new season dawns, the Red Devils see plenty of big departures with the inspirational Jackson Hastings, Josh Jones, George Griffin, Darell Olpherts and Robert Lui all making an exit.

This year may just be a transitional year for Watson’s men, meaning both Joey Lussick and Niall Evalds will be pivotal as the season goes on.

They have been able to fill some voids though, adding Kevin Brown, James Greenwood, Dan Sarginson and Sebastine Ikahihifo in the hope of following on from a sensational 2019.

Salford Red Devils utility back Tuimoala Lolohea

Player to watch

Even though it did not work out for him at Leeds, Tuimoala Lolohea has seemingly found a new lease of life with Salford.

If his performances for Tonga towards the end of the year are anything to go by, then it will be interesting to see where this side goes from here with the halfback in tow.

Prediction: 9th


St. Helens

2019 season finish: 1st  (Champions)

Ground: Totally Wicked Stadium

Coach: Kristian Woolf

Captain: James Roby

St Helens hooker James Roby

Unlike other teams around them, the 2019 Super League Champions have decided against adding any extra talent to the side that dominated most of last year.

Well, they do say why mess with a winning formula and again the Saints still look an unfathomable unit with James Roby leading the way once again.

It is possible to think though that the Red Vee will not always have it their own way this year especially with how other teams have added over the off season.

Though when you have Lachlan Coote, Regan Grace, Kevin Naiqama, Tommy Makinson and Jonny Lomax in the backline and a front row consisting of Luke Thompson and Alex Walmsley, then you will still be brave to bet against them.

St Helens prop Luke Thompson

Player to watch

In a team that has its fair share of impact players, Jonny Lomax has been one of the most consistent performers over the last couple of years.

His versatility and ability to unlock an opponent’s defence saw him claim 16 tries and 21 try assists last year. Man of Steel 2020 anyone?

Prediction: 2nd

St Helens utility back Jonny Lomax

Toronto Wolfpack

2019 season finish: N/A (recently promoted from Championship)

Ground: Lampert Stadium

Coach: Brian McDermott

Captain: Josh McCrone

Toronto Wolfpack captain Josh McCrone

The first ever transatlantic rugby league team make their highly anticipated debut in Super League this year.

In the process, they bring with them one of the biggest acquisitions in the sport’s history, if not the biggest in Sonny Bill Williams.

The 34-year-old will make his return to rugby league for the first time since 2014 and will provide a huge boost in the back row.

Alongside SBW, Toronto have the coaching of McDermott and Super League experience of Joe Mellor, Gareth O’Brian, Matty Russell and Jon Wilkin.

Together, that should seemingly be enough to steer them to safety with a play-off spot maybe too much too soon for the North American side.

Newly signed Toronto Wolfpack back-rower Sonny Bill Williams

Player to watch

Even though all eyes will be on SBW, the key man for McDermott’s side may just be the talented Andy Ackers at dummy half.

The 26-year-old has spent time with Swinton and London before joining Toronto in 2018 and has developed a reputation as one of the best hookers in the country outside of Super League.

Prediction: 10th


Wakefield Trinity Wildcats

2019 season finish: 9th

Ground: Belle Vue (Mobile Rocket Stadium)

Coach: Chris Chester

Captain: Jacob Miller

Wakefield captain Jacob Miller

The West Yorkshire side should be quietly confident they can challenge some of the leading contenders ahead of them this season.

They face a fight in the middle table with the likes of Leeds, Castleford and Catalan looks to be much likelier.

The Wildcats have brought in Joe Westerman, Chris Green and Jay Pitts to bolster the forwards.

They still have influential players in Bill Tupou, Reece Lyne and Danny Brough to create opportunities going forward.

Wakefield player Reece Lyne

Also, the additions of the young and exceptionally talented Alex Walker and veteran Ryan Atkins certainly bolster the backline.

Player to watch

There is no question that Tom Johnstone is the one to watch for Wakefield this year.

Over the last two years he has had his career curtailed after a pair of serious injuries saw him miss a substantial amount of time.

Wakefield utility back Tom Johnstone

However, if he stays healthy, he remains one of the most exciting talents out there with his electric speed and finishing ability.

Prediction: 8th


Warrington Wolves

2019 season finish: 4th

Ground: Halliwell Jones Stadium

Coach: Steve Price

Captain(s): Chris Hill and Jack Hughes

Warrington Wolves captain Chris Hill

In the duo of Blake Austin and Gareth Widdop. the Wire have two of the most lethal halves in the league to get them in to the top two this year.

The departure of Ryan Atkins and Bryson Goodwin have left a gap in the centres.

The trio of Toby King, Jake Mamo and Keenan Brand alongside new signing Anthony Gelling show there are plenty of options for Steve Price there.

Even out wide, they have two exceptional try scorers in Josh Charnley and Tom Lineham.

Warrington Wolves utility back Tom Lineham

There are huge presences in the forward pack with Chris Hill, Jack Hughes, Joe Philbin, Ben Currie, Ben Murdoch-Masila and Sitaleki Akauola.

Not to mention catalyst Daryl Clark flying around at dummy half.

All the ingredients are there, it is up to the Wolves now as to whether they can finally put the pieces together and finally achieve the big one.

Warrington Wolves player Josh Charnley

Player to watch

We already know what the likes of Austin, Widdop and Charnley so for Warrington, I decided to look at more youthful prospect and that is Matty Ashton.

The 21-year-old arrived from Swinton Lions recently and comes into Super League as the second tier’s top try scorer and Young Player of the Year in 2019.

Prediction: 3rd


Wigan Warriors

2019 season finish: 2nd

Ground: DW Stadium

Coach: Adrian Lam

Captain: Sean O’Loughlin

Wigan Warriors captain Sean O’Loughlin

Alongside Hull FC, Wigan have probably made some of the best signings over the course of the post season.

2019 Man of Steel winner Jackson Hastings has joining the fray to go with the inclusions of George Burgess, Mitch Clark and Jake Bibby.

The Warriors have a team filled with a great blend of youth and experience and that was certainly evident last year.

Youngsters Morgan Smithies and Oliver Partington gained valuable first team minutes and showed why they are potential stars in the making.

Wigan Warriors youngster Morgan Smithies

If you combine all this with the leadership of Sean O’Loughlin, Liam Farrell and Thomas Leuluai and the skill and talent of Zak Hardaker, Oliver Gildart, Bevan French and Joe Burgess, then Wigan have it all to go better than 2nd this year.

Player to watch

Although you can point to either Smithies or Partington or the fact that Gildart is set to miss the start of the season due to injury, the stage is set for Bevan French.

He has a chance to announce himself in his first full year with the Warriors.

Wigan Warriors fullback Bevan French

The 24-year-old certainly has all the skills and creativity to be one Adrian Lam’s best attacking weapons this coming season.

Prediction: 1st


 

Super League 2020 team guide part one

As the 2020 Super League season gets underway on Thursday night, I put each team under the microscope with part one looking at Castleford, Catalans, Huddersfield, Hull FC, Hull KR and Leeds.


Castleford Tigers

2019 season finish: 5th

Ground: Mend-a-hose Jungle

Coach: Daryl Powell

Captain: Michael Shenton

The biggest change for Castleford sees the departure of Luke Gale to Leeds and the acquisition of the young and talented Danny Richardson from St. Helens.

He will now partner the equally young and exceptional Jake Trueman in the halves. 

Castleford Tigers half Jake Trueman

A duo that will be pivotal to their play-off aspirations this season and one that will be worth paying close attention to. 

Daryl Powell has also been able to partly solve the nagging issue of squad depth.

The signings of Sosaia Feki from Cronulla and Derell Olpherts from Salford add strength on the flanks.

The big additions of George Griffin and Tyla Hepi will also be a huge plus in the forward pack as the Tigers look to push their way into the top 5.

Player to watch

After making his professional debut in 2017, Jake Trueman has gone from strength to strength and established himself as a regular starter last season with Luke Gale out through injury.

As we come into 2020, the now Gale less Tigers will now look to their new star to run the ship in the middle of the park alongside Richardson.

Prediction: 5th


Catalan Dragons

2019 season finish: 7th

Ground: Stade Gilbert Brutus

Coach: Steve McNamara

Captain: Remi Casty

The 2018 Challenge Cup winners have been one of those sides that has floated around mid-table for some time now.

The emerging Perpignan side are still sneakily building a side that has the ability to make life difficult for some of the league’s top sides.

Newly signed Catalans Dragons half James Maloney

The huge signing of James Maloney solidifies the halves as he could look to partner the returning Josh Drinkwater.

Drinkwater was somewhat of a difference maker during his first stint with the Dragons as well as with Hull KR.

This new partnership opens the door for Sam Tomkins to move to the fullback role with 2018 Lance Todd Trophy winner, Tony Gigot opting not to resign with the club.

This trio of quality talent alongside the likes of David Mead, Lewis Tierney and Fouad Yaha in the backline is potent.

Impact players like Michael McIlorum, Remi Casty and Sam Moa in the forward pack will also be out to impress.

Catalans Dragons captain Remi Casty

There is no question the Dragons have all the necessary ingredients to make the playoffs but again it comes down to them being able to perform on a consistent basis and not just at home.

Player to watch

It probably will not come as a shock to many but undoubtedly the key man for the French side will be James Maloney whose experience, knowledge of the game and winning mentality are all huge pluses.

Prediction: 7th


Huddersfield Giants

2019 season finish: 10th

Ground: John Smith’s Stadium

Coach: Simon Woolford

Captain: Aidan Sezer

New Huddersfield Giants half Aidan Sezer

The Giants received a huge boost by bringing in Aidan Sezer from Canberra but even with such a noteworthy signing.

Unfortunately, Huddersfield may just find themselves in a relegation battle once again.

Despite the additions of Sezer, Ashton Golding, Kenny Edwards and James Gavet, Huddersfield still lack the depth and quality.

Compared to other teams around them, in the end, it could prove to be another tough battle for Simon Woolford’s men.

Player to watch

If the West Yorkshire side are to make anything of the season, then the premise will certainly be on Aidan Sezer to be the catalyst that sparks something.

The 28-year-old is quite possibly the Giants biggest NRL coup since acquiring Brett Hodgson in 2009.

Fans will be hoping that the former Canberra halfback will have a similar impact as that of the former Parramatta and West Tigers star.

Prediction: 12th


Hull FC

2019 season finish: 6th

Ground: KCOM Stadium

Coach: Lee Radford

Captain: Danny Houghton

Hull FC fan favourite Mahe Fonua

The Airlie Birds are probably one of the most frustrating teams to watch in recent years.

Although they won back to back Challenge Cups in 2016 and 2017, Hull FC have failed to translate the same success into the league.

This is despite running with a team that already boasts plenty of elite talent in the likes of Albert Kelly, Marc Sneyd, Jake Connor and Danny Houghton.

Hull FC’s Jake Connor

However, Hull have been very forward in terms player recruitment with the returning Mahe Fonua and Adam Swift providing huge upgrades out on the flanks.

Also, the additions of a Tongan powerhouse in Manu Ma’u and Great Britain international Josh Jones add to an already huge forward pack.

With the right guidance, this could see Hull fielding a team that makes a decent run to the play-offs this year.

Hull FC captain Danny Houghton

Player to watch

You can certainly look to players such as Kelly and Sneyd to be integral to the team’s chances this season but from what we have seen in recent seasons then Jake Connor will be the man.

He will be expect to make things happen offensively with his elusive ball carrying and slick passing a real danger for any side.

Prediction: 4th


Hull KR

2019 season finish: 11th

Ground: Craven Park

Coach: Tony Smith

Captain: Weller Hauraki

Hull KR captain Weller Hauraki

Hull KR certainly have not been quiet in terms of recruitment this off season either bringing in a host of talent at a variety of spots.

The Robins were able to bring in more players than any other team.

They went on a signing spree that was headlined by names such as Shaun Kenny Dowall, Greg Minikin, Harvey Livett and Jordan Abdull.

Tony Smith’s side could face another battle to avoid relegation.

Newly signed Hull KR centre Shaun Kenny-Dowall

However, evidence suggests they have a decent blend of youth and experience to guarantee themselves safety.

The combination of Kane Linnett and the newly recruited Kenny Dowall in the centres provide a great deal of experience that could prove beneficial to the younger players.

Additionally, when you have someone like Smith in the head coaching role, it all adds up to something positive.

Newly signed Hull KR winger Greg Minikin

Player to watch

The one player for Hull KR this season might just have to be Greg Minikin, who made a reputation at Castleford as a savvy and productive try scorer with 43 in 95 appearances for the Tigers.

Prediction: 11th


Leeds Rhinos

2019 season finish: 8th

Ground: Headingley

Coach: Richard Agar

Captain: Stevie Ward

Leeds Rhinos utility back Ash Handley

After another season of struggles, Leeds have been quite tactful in terms of player additions.

They have brought in Luke Gale, Kruise Leeming and NRL prop Matt Prior from Cronulla to provide huge boosts in their retrospective positions.

The duo of Ash Handley and Harry Newman are two of the league’s brightest young talents.

The duo will be called upon once again to take their game to another level this year.

Newly signed Leeds Rhinos half Robert Lui

Since the departures of Danny McGuire, Rob Burrow and Kevin Sinfield Leeds have been unable a rock solid partnership in the halves.

Fast forward to this year and there is a fresh sense of optimism as Robert Lui and Luke Gale will take up the six and seven spots.

The hope is that the new duo can re-energise the Rhinos attack and have them threatening the play-offs once more.

Newly signed Leeds Rhinos half Luke Gale

Player to watch

His name has been mentioned already but if Leeds want to breathe some new life into this attack then Luke Gale will definitely have to be that man.

His ability to make things happen offensively with his passing and in game kicking remain second to none.

The former Castleford and Bradford man also brings with him a firm accuracy with the boot in terms of goal kicking, an aspect that Leeds have struggled with in recent seasons.

Prediction: 6th


 

Folau returns to rugby league with the Catalans Dragons

Newly signed Catalans Dragons player Israel Folau

The NRL said no but the RFL has made it happen; Israel Folau is back playing rugby league with French-based Super League side, the Catalans Dragons.

Folau, still only 30 and a dual international has signed a 1-year deal.

Heavily religious, Folau is no stranger to controversy with some of his comments angering the masses.

Folau opened up briefly about it and says he will not make further comments surrounding his views.

“I acknowledge the views expressed by Super League and the Rugby Football League,” said Folau.

I’m a proud Christian, my beliefs are personal, my intention is not to hurt anyone and I will not be making further public comment about them.

I look forward to my return to the great game of Rugby League with the Catalans Dragons.”

Catalan Dragons Chairman Bernard Guasch made it clear the side wants to give Folau a chance but they do not support his views.

“We want to give Israel a new opportunity to shine on the pitch,” Guasch said.

“We do not support or agree with Israel’s previously expressed and controversial views which are based upon his sincerely held religious belief.

“We do not share or condone those views and we are totally committed to our club and our sport being open and welcoming to everyone.”

Guasch went on to continue that Folau’s views should not be expressed by anyone, let alone someone like Folau.

“We do not believe that those views should be publicly expressed, especially by a high-profile sports person,” Guasch continued.

“We have a signed agreement with the RFL.

Any transgression will trigger an immediate termination of Israel’s contract and a substantial fine for the club.”