ESL Preview - Round 9

St Helens V Leigh

St Helens coach Ian Millward insists it will be business as usual when Leigh visit Knowsley Road on Friday, but admits he still has a soft spot for his former club.

After four years as an assistant coach at NRL side Illawarra in Sydney, Millward was given his first chance at being top dog by the Centurions in September 1998.

The Australian was an instant success, taking the ailing club from bottom of Division One to fourth in his first season and then to the top of the table before joining Saints the following year.

Past loyalties still run deep and Millward is delighted Leigh have now made it to the engage Super League.

?Obviously I?m very appreciative of Leigh giving me an opportunity in this country,? said Millward. ?I?ve always followed their results and I?ve always made myself available if they needed any help.

?I had some really exciting times at Leigh. I had a fantastic spell there and it was great.

?When I went there they were averaging 600 fans a game and were last in the First Division, but when I left the gates were up to 3,000 and they were in the running for promotion.

?It was (former Leeds coach) Graham Murray who recommended me to them but when I looked at the table I wondered what he was trying to do to me.

?But he said they were a young team, it?s a rugby league town and I could make a name for myself by going there.

?I was really pleased when they came into Super League, there are people who have worked very hard over a long period of time there.

?I?d love them to stay up but that?s not something I?ve got control over and my first role is to win the game.?

Saints, who have won six of their opening eight games, will be further boosted by the return of stand-off Jason Hooper after seven months out with a knee injury.

The Australian is expected to start but club captain Paul Sculthorpe, New Zealand centre Willie Talau and forward duo Mark Edmondson and Jon Wilkin are still out injured while prop Paul Anderson is rested.

Bottom side Leigh face a daunting task against one of the competition?s most impressive sides but are at least buoyed by successive wins over London Broncos and Batley.

The Centurions are without full-back Neil Turley through injury and prop Richard Moore due to suspension but former Widnes forward Steve McCurrie is back. Jason Duffy, younger brother of half-back John, is also included in the squad.

St Helens v Leigh Centurions, Knowsley Road, Friday April 8 2005

St Helens 18-man squad: Wellens, Hardman, Lyon, V. Anderson, Albert, Roby, Long, Fozzard, Cunningham, Mason, Gilmour, Bennett, Fa?asavalu, Graham, Moore, Hooper, Gardner, Higham.

Leigh 18-man squad: Cooper, J. Duffy, Fleary, Govin, Jackson, Kent, King, Leafa, Maden, Marshall, McCurrie, Smyth, Stapleton, Sturm, Knott, Wilshere, Taylor, Maddox.

Referee: K Kirkpatrick _______________________ Wakefield Trinity V Salford City

Wakefield Trinity Wildcats scrum-half Ben Jeffries has stressed the importance of gaining maximum points against Salford ahead of their engage Super League clash at The Willows on Friday.

The Wildcats produced the shock of the season when they beat leaders Leeds on Easter Monday but were brought crashing back to earth by Hull in the Powergen Challenge Cup last weekend.

Jeffries recognises the importance of the Salford trip to a team hoping to repeat last year?s run to the play-offs, and said: ?We were winning games like this last season and we know it?s what we?ve got to do for the rest of this season to put ourselves in contention.

The Wildcats are still without David Solomona, but Sam Obst and Kevin King are back in contention.

Salford are missing injured full-back Karl Fitzpatrick and winger Nathan McAvoy.

Salford City Reds v Wakefield Trinity Wildcats, The Willows, Friday April 8 2005

Salford 18-man squad: Hodgson, Langi, Littler, McGuinness, Stewart, Beverley, Robinson, Rutgerson, Alker, Dickens, Sibbit, Coley, Charles, Shipway, Stringer, Haggerty, Jonkers, Baldwin.

Wakefield 18-man squad: Demetriou, Tadulala, Rooney, Jeffries, Griffin, March, Korkidas, J. Field, Obst, Wrench, Elima, King, M. Field, Applegarth, Houles, Kirk, O?Neill, Feather.

Referee: S P Ganson _______________________ Huddersfield V Wigan

Huddersfield Giants are still smarting after last week?s narrow 26-22 Powergen Challenge Cup loss to St Helens and are determined to bounce back against in-form Wigan Warriors in the engage Super League.

Wigan are now up to third after pulsating wins over Saints and Hull and Giants coach Jon Sharp is anticipating a thrilling match.

Sharp said: ?We?ve got over the disappointment of the weekend and are ready to move on.

?That was one of our best performances since I?ve been here, so we?ve got loads of positives out of it and put the other side-issues to bed.

?We are trying not to play on emotion. It is going to be emotional enough on Friday, when there will be a fantastic atmosphere.

?It will be a fantastic game and we are playing a side who are playing some superb stuff themselves.?

However, while Sharp has the luxury of picking from a fully-fit squad, opposite number Denis Betts is still hampered by injuries and is waiting on fitness tests for Danny Orr and Terry Newton.

Half-back Orr has been out with a shoulder injury and is rated ?70-30? by Betts, whilst hooker Newton was rested for last week?s cup clash with Whitehaven due to a knee problem.

Huddersfield Giants v Wigan Warriors, Galpharm Stadium, Friday April 8 2005

Huddersfield 18-man squad: Reilly, O?Hare, Evans, De Vere, March, Slicker, Drew, Gannon, Nero, Roarty, Gene, Jones, Smith, Crabtree, Grayshon, White, Jackson, St Hilaire.

Wigan 18-man squad: Radlinski, Dallas, Vaealiki, Wild, Aspinwall, Brown, Orr, Seu Seu, Newton, Hansen, Tickle, Beswick, Allen, Hargreaves, Colbon, Godwin, Melling, Guisset.

Referee: A Klein

Thanks to: for another excellent article.