We take a look at what is being said ahead of Thursday’s Super League double-header, which sees Round 2 kick off with Wigan Warriors facing Wakefield Trinity and Hull Kingston Rovers taking on St Helens…
Rugby league world rallies around Masoe
The second round of the 2021 Super League season has been dedicated to helping Mose Masoe, fittingly coinciding with his two former clubs St Helens and Hull KR facing off in the second match of Thursday’s double-header.
As well as fans in this country being able to buy virtual tickets to raise funds for the Mose Masoe Foundation, set up to aid both the former Samoa international and other players who suffer spinal injuries, the NRL – where he played for Sydney Roosters and Penrith Panthers – have thrown their backing behind the scheme too.
Hull K R vs St Helens
April 1, 2021, 8:00pm
Rovers head coach Tony Smith has been overwhelmed by the support shown around the world for Masoe, who suffered the life-changing injury in a pre-season match last January, hailing both the rugby league family for once again showing its true colours and the man himself as an inspiration.
“I know a lot of people out there have helped others in our game and sometimes it feels like we’re always trying to help somebody, but that’s our sport,” Smith said.
“That’s what we’re good at and when we do need help, we all come together and look after each other.
“Anybody who has had any contact with Mose understands what a great bloke and inspirational person he is. I know he’s inspired a lot of people and it’s been a tough road for him, but he’s done it with a smile on his face the whole time.”
My family and I are absolutely humbled by the support. We are very thankful for the people behind the scenes. The vision of the Foundation is not just to help my family I but others in near future. Thank you again for the ongoing support. Alofa atu.
Meanwhile, it is a big night for KR captain Shaun Kenny-Dowall as he makes his 300th club career appearance, while Ryan Hall is just one away from his 200th Super League try after a hat-trick on his debut in last week’s 29-28 loss to Catalans Dragons.
Saints’ squad of the future taking shape
Having kicked off their title defence with a 29-6 win over Salford Red Devils last week, St Helens have been further boosted with three players signing new contracts at the club ahead of Thursday’s clash with Hull KR.
Not being ones to stand still, the back-to-back champions have looked to the future by signing 19-year-old forward Jake Wingfield and 20-year-old centre Josh Simm to three and one-year extensions respectively.
That was followed by the news Alex Walmsley will remain a cornerstone of the Saints pack until at least the end of the 2024 season, coming on the back of a year which saw the prop named in the Super League Dream Team for the second time.
I couldn’t be happier to commit my long term future to this club, there truly is no one else I would want to play for and I’m ready to give my all for the next four years. Humbled by all the messages, thank you all #COYSpic.twitter.com/hJdbagKOpK
Walmsley, who chipped in 10 tries in 2020, put the seal on the win over Salford when he crossed late on, and the England international put his stand-out displays last year down to improved fitness levels which in turn led to improvements in other parts of his game.
“The base was my fitness levels,” Walmsley said. “It’s no secret I’ve got a good carry and that’s what I base my game on, getting the team rolling forward and creating quick play-the-balls.
“That’s not the whole part of the game though, it’s the little things – the kick chases, your pressures, your work from marker. Things that might be missed to the common eye are certainly not missed by this group are what I needed to work on.
“But it stemmed from a fitness point of view and as soon as I got my fitness levels back to where they should and can be, that fell hand in hand with that.”
Hull Kingston Rovers: Adam Quinlan, Ben Crooks, Greg Minikin, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Ryan Hall, Jordan Abdull, Albert Vete, Matt Parcell, Korbin Sims, Kane Linnett, Dean Hadley, Jez Litten, George Lawler, Elliot Minchella, Matty Storton, Mikey Lewis, Ethan Ryan, Rowan Milnes, Luis Johnson, Muizz Mustapha.
St Helens: Lachlan Coote, Tommy Makinson, Kevin Naiqama, Regan Grace, Jonny Lomax, Theo Fages, Alex Walmsley, James Roby, Matty Lees, Joel Thompson, James Bentley, Sione Mata’utia, Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Kyle Amor, Jack Welsby, Aaron Smith, Joe Batchelor, Lewis Dodd, Josh Simm, Jake Wingfield, Tom Nisbet.
Referee: Robert Hicks.
Wigan Warriors vs Wakefield Trinity
April 1, 2021, 5:30pm
Can Warriors stop Johnstone?
Wigan head coach Adrian Lam has made no secret of the fact he will be picking someone to specifically mark Wakefield winger Tom Johnstone when the sides meet in Thursday’s first game.
The 25-year-old, who scored nine tries in 13 Super League appearances for Trinity last year, showed his propensity for the spectacular with two eye-catching scores in their seesaw 28-22 loss to Leeds Rhinos last Saturday.
Despite being on the losing team, Johnstone was named man of the match and was delighted to get off to a flying start with his sights set on adding to the sole England cap he won against France in 2018 and the Rugby League World Cup at the end of the year.
“I’ve got a lot to catch up on this year and I wanted to start off with a bang,” Johnstone told Sky Sports. “There are a lot of good players pushing for the England jersey and I want to be one of them.”
On a team level though, it was a frustrating afternoon for Wakefield as some bad habits reared their head for Chris Chester’s men, who have full-back Ryan Hampshire forward Jay Pitts available again to face Wigan, and those errors were ultimately seized on by the Rhinos.
“It was the same as last year,” Johnstone told Sky Sports. “We just had a 10 or 15-minute interval where it went penalty, penalty, try, try and we threw it away.
“If we want to be up there at the top, we have to cut out and it’s something we tried doing, but it crept back in there.”
Lam eyes improvement
Last year’s Grand Final runners-up were victorious in their opening match of the season, but had to fight back from 18 points down to promoted Leigh Centurions before triumphing 20-18 in the ‘Battle of the Borough’.
Lam acknowledge Wigan were not at their best, but believes that was more down to it being the first match of the season and is hoping to see progress when they tackle Wakefield.
“The nature of the beast is that you’re not going to play your best rugby in Round 1,” Lam said. “We are aware of that and we are aware of what we got wrong. We have this week to get that right.
“The focus is as much on Wakefield as it is ourselves – to make sure we improve in certain areas.”
The Warriors were not helped by losing new signing Jai Field to a torn hamstring which will rule him out for five months, although Jackson Hastings is set to be available after missing the clash with Leigh.
Wakefield Trinity: Tom Johnstone, Bill Tupou, Reece Lyne, Liam Kay, Jacob Miller, Mason Lino, David Fifita, Tinirau Arona, Matty Ashurst, Kelepi Tanginoa, Joe Westerman, Jay Pitts, James Batchelor, Chris Green, Innes Senior, Jordy Crowther, Joe Arundel, Adam Tangata, Josh Wood, Brad Walker, Ryan Hampshire.
Wigan Warriors: Zak Hardaker, Thomas Leuluai, Brad Singleton, Sam Powell, Joe Bullock, Willie Isa, Liam Farrell, John Bateman, Oliver Partington, Morgan Smithies, Tony Clubb, Liam Byrne, Harry Smith, Ethan Havard, Jake Bibby, Mitch Clark, Joe Shorrocks, Sam Halsall, James McDonnell, Umyla Hanley, Jackson Hastings.