CATALANS Dragons coaching assistant Paul Donkin believes his side will respond to the challenge of facing the man he rates as the world?s best player ? Bradford?s Stuart Fielden.The Great Britain forward visits the Aime Giral in Perpignan on Saturday as champions Bradford take their unbeaten engage Super League record to France.Donkin is looking forward to the clash as Catalans, following successive away defeats, aim to replicate their memorable opening-day home success over Wigan.?We are in a very privileged position,? said Donkin, who will continue to run the side along with David Waite until new coach Mick Potter arrives later this month.?Our first two games in France are against the two benchmark sides of the last decade, Wigan and Bradford.?The town is buzzing at the prospect of Bradford visiting, and we?re looking forward to the atmosphere in the stadium. We need it to be a cauldron.?My players are really up for the game. We know what to expect and we?re relishing matching their physical presence.?I believe that on current form, Stuart Fielden is the best player in the world. Facing him at the moment is the absolute test. He could do a job in the NRL no problem.?My forwards are pretty useful as well though, and are looking forward to facing him. We will raise our game to meet the challenge.?The Dragons have found life tougher since their Wigan success, suffering defeats at both Salford and Castleford whilst playmaker Stacey Jones has been ruled out for up to two months with a broken arm.?I believe if Jones had have been playing, we would be talking about taking three from three,? Donkin added.?We have to put that behind us now and have two home games against two great clubs (Bradford and Leeds) to look forward to.?Like any team, we need to be strong at home. I?ve been pleasantly surprised with how the French public have responded to us and we need it to continue.?Laurent Frayssinous is likely to continue at scrum-half for Catalans in the absence of Jones while Bradford could be unchanged from the side victorious over Salford last week.Catalans Dragons v Bradford Bulls, Saturday March 4Catalans Dragons 18-man: Bosc, Murphy, Wilson, Hughes, Verges, Rudder, Frayssinous, Chan, Rinaldi, Beattie, Fakir, Guisset, Hindmarsh, Mounis, Fellous, Touxagas, Guigue, Teixido.Bradford 18-man: Deacon, Bai, Fielden, I. Harris, Withers, Smith, B. Harris, Gene, Pryce, Ferres, Cook, Vagana, Langley, Hape, McKenna, Meyers, Lynch, Henderson.Referee: R Silverwood
WAKEFIELD and Huddersfield clash at Belle Vue on Saturday night with each side desperate to hit form.Both sides have won just one of their opening three games but the Wildcats are in better heart after a surprise 26-6 victory at Harlequins last time out.Huddersfield were given a good working over at Wigan, where they shipped in 30 points in the opening 33 minutes, but after rallying to lose only 36-20, coach Jon Sharp remains positive.Sharp said: ?Immediately after the game I felt extremely disappointed, I felt it was a step back, but having looked at the tape I felt the last 50 minutes were really good. There were positives to come out of it.?It?s just disappointing we gave ourselves such a mountain to climb, but Wigan played very well.?When teams are completing sets like that it is very hard to get momentum and we found it difficult to get the ball.?We have played against Leeds, Warrington and Wigan ? teams who are going to be up there ? so we?ve had a tough start but I?m really happy with how we have played.?Judging by Wakefield?s result in London it shows they are a very good attacking side and they have got good quality players in their defensive ranks. It is going to be a real test.?Wakefield are without suspended half-back Sam Obst and Jon Whittle, who was carried off on a stretcher after injuring his back in the Wildcats? win over Harlequins last week, is also out. Tom Saxton, on loan from Hull as cover for injured full-back Mark Field, is in the squad.Playmaker Jamie Rooney is on the comeback trail after seven months out with a cruciate ligament injury but not ready for consideration.Huddersfield have no new injury problems following last week?s defeat at Wigan. Prop Jim Gannon remains a long-term casualty but coach Jon Sharp otherwise reports a clean bill of health.Wakefield Trinity Wildcats v Huddersfield Giants, Saturday March 4Wakefield 18-man: Halpenny, Demetriou, Tadulala, Jeffries, Griffin, March, Korkidas, Solomona, J. Field, Betham, White, Wrench, MacGillivray, Elima, Henderson, Applegarth, King, Saxton.Huddersfield 18-man: Reilly, Aspinwall, Evans, De Vere, Thorman, Paul, Crabtree, Drew, Nero, Snitch, Wild, Jones, Jackson, March, Smith, McDonald, Gardner, Torrens.Referee: S Ganson
THE RFL is to investigate the circumstances surrounding the postponement of the engage Super League fixture between Leeds Rhinos and Castleford Tigers.The match was scheduled to kick off at 8pm on Friday, March 3.It has now been rescheduled for Sunday afternoon.
LIKELY squad: David Simmons, Luke Covell, Ben Pomeroy, Beau Scott, Darren Albert, Nigel Vagana, Brett Kimmorley, Ben Ross, Kevin Kingston, Lance Thompson, Reece Williams, Phil Bailey, Paul GallenInterchange: Hutch Maiva, Luke Douglas, Clifford Manua, Matt HilderStrengths:The Sharks have one of the best halfbacks in the competition directing them around the park. If Brett Kimmorley has an injury-free year and is able to handle the increased ball carrying, then the Sharks can push the top 8.They have purchased quite well for next season. They have replaced stalwarts Jason Stevens and Danny Nutley with Origin prop Ben Ross and former Dragon Lance Thompson.The Sharks also have a very formidable and mobile forward pack for next season. They do not have a large forward pack in size, but they have a very mobile pack that has a lot of skill. With the likes of rising stars Luke Douglas and Clifford Manua the Sharks have a solid forward foundation for 2006.They have purchased great depth for their junior ranks. They raided the Bartercard Cup and the Junior Kiwis? teams and managed to secure some of the most exciting talent in New Zealand. Some of which will be working their way to first grade very shortly.The move to play Nigel Vagana at five-eighth is a smart move by the Sharks. He is a very good ball runner and will create many opportunities for the Sharks to score points in 2006.Weaknesses:The pressure on Brett Kimmorley will be tremendous. Two years ago, before the Sharks acquired Adam Dykes, they relied heavily on Kimmorley for their creative playmaking. Kimmorley was touching the ball 3-4 times a set, something he has found in the past he is uncomfortable doing. With Vagana not being a creative ball player, rather a ball runner, Kimmorley will be under a lot more pressure with the ball in hand this season. This could mean the Sharks have too much of a one-dimensional attack.The Sharks have lost a lot of experience and their team has a massive new look. Clubmen David Peachey, Jason Stevens and Danny Nutley have gone and this will affect the environment and culture within the club.Their inexperienced backline could also be a problem for the Sharks. Aside from veteran Darren Albert, who is returning from the UK, the Sharks? three-quarters are very inexperienced.One to Watch:Pee Wee Moke is one of the most promising centre prospects in the game today. The 19 year old, 182cm and 89kg centre is looking to push for First Grade honours this season after a disappointing season with the Roosters. A member of the premiership winning and undefeated Roosters Jersey Flegg team, he was not getting the opportunities he was craving at the Roosters and has linked up with the Sharks for this season. In doing so the Sharks have secured a great centre talent and if he gets a chance in First Grade he will not go down without a fight. He is a well built and fast individual with great footwork, similar to Paul Whaitura. If Cronulla want to have their backs firing on all cylinders this season, they need to give this young man a shot. Gains and Losses:Gains: Ben Ross, Ben Pomeroy, Lance Thompson, Darren Mapp, Darren Albert, Tevita Latu, Brett Kearney, Ryan Borg.Losses: Jason Stevens, David Peachey, Danny Nutley, Michael Sullivan, Nathan Merritt, Paul Mellor, Keith Galloway, Bryson Goodwin, Jon Green, Russell Aitken, Ryan McGoldrick, Vince MellarsAssessment:The Cronulla Sharks have a team that can surprise a lot of people. They have a solid nucleus of forwards, but I believe the lack of experience in the backline aside from Darren Albert and the sole reliance on Brett Kimmorley in the playmaking role will mean the Sharks will struggle this year.The Sharks have no depth whatsoever in the halfback role losing back up Russel Aitken to the Cowboys. If Kimmorley gets injured, it will be curtains for the Sharks? chances and they will get the wooden spoon. If Kimmorley stays fit, then they are a chance to push the top 8. But the Sharks are a young team with potential and this season will set a good platform for things to come.My prediction ? 11th-15th.
LIKELY squad: Brett Stewart, Michael Robertson, Steven Bell, Ashley Alberts, Chris Hicks, Travis Burns, Matt Orford, Brent Kite, Michael Monaghan, Jason King, Anthony Watmough, Steve Menzies, Ben KennedyInterchange: Shayne Dunley, Kylie Leuluai, George Rose, Luke WilliamsonStrengths:Manly?s forwards are strong and versatile, meaning that they will be mobile in attack and defence. This is a great attribute to have in a forward pack. With experienced campaigners like Kennedy and Menzies along with exciting talent like Anthony Watmough, the Manly forward pack is one to be feared in the NRL.Matt Orford is an obvious strength for the Manly club. Not since Geoff Toovey has the Manly club had a halfback that is good enough to lead them to a premiership.Brett Stewart is one of the most exciting fullbacks in the game. He possesses electrifying pace and can score a try from anywhere on the field. Only his poor defensive errors prevent him from being the complete fullback package.Matt Orford?s combination with Steven Bell will be crucial for Manly?s success this season. Bell was one of the leading line breakers in the NRL in 2005 and Manly will be hoping that continues in 2006. Orford has a great combination with Bell and if that continues, Manly will score plenty of points in 2006 on the back of it.Weaknesses:Manly?s backline apart from Bell and Stewart still looks rather fragile. Chris Hicks, Michael Robertson and Ashley Alberts are not exactly the type of players to strike fear into the hearts of their opposition numbers. For Manly to succeed they will need for Ashley Alberts to finally realise his potential as a player or hope of securing Jamie Lyon in 2007.Manly may have two of their key positions covered for 2006 in their fullback and halfback, but they do not have stable options for five-eighth and hooker. Travis Burns may be an exciting young talent but he is untried at NRL level and Michael Monaghan is a player that could be low on confidence in a new position. This could be a problem for Manly in 2006.Des Hasler is not the best coach going around in NRL circles, but even he has to recognise the lack of depth currently at Manly. If Orford was to become injured, they do have the options available to counter that. However, Manly may lack available options to effectively replace key players in other key positions.One to Watch:Travis Burns is a product of Texas in Qld. The light footed five-eighth/halfback will be looking to link up in a halves combination with Matt Orford this season as the opportunity to shine now presents itself. With Michael Witt seemingly looking like he?ll never play First Grade again due to defensive lapses, the opportunity for young Travis to cement a First Grade spot has heightened. The talented playmaker made a couple of appearances in 2005 which set him up to be one of the better prospects to come out of Manly in recent years. In his few appearances he was cool under pressure and had a good kicking game. He still has room to develop his game a lot more and I?m sure with a good halfback at his side in Matt Orford we will see the best of Travis Burns in 2006. Gains and Losses:Gains: Matt Orford, Steve Bell, Michael Robertson, George Rose.Losses: Terry Hill, Chad Randall, Scott Donald, Sam Harris, Jye Mullane, Nathan Hollingsworth.Assessment:I believe Manly have the halfback, fullback and forward pack in order to win the competition, but I don?t believe they can do it with the existing players in the #6 and #9 jerseys. Manly will be competitive in 2006 and will more than likely repeat their top 8 effort this season, however I don?t believe they have the required strike power or creativity in key positions to take out the 2006 NRL Premiership.My Prediction ? 6th-10th.
A preliminary Queensland squad was named today for the 2004 State of Origin rugby league series with New South Wales.
MAGPIE rookies Tanu Wulf and Bob Blair showed a big improvement in their Queensland Cup performances, with sound try-scoring displays against the Burleigh Bears last weekend.
TYPICALLY understated Toowoomba coach John Dixon used Saturday?s blockbusting 34-26 win over Redcliffe to find an answer he?d dearly been looking for.
HEAD Coach Paul Cullen has announced his squad to face current Super League Champions Bradford Bulls tomorrow night:
THE Wigan club today revealed that their Head Coach Mike Gregory has developed a chronic bacterial infection which will require Mike to enter hospital for treatment.
THE Wests Tigers have rewarded Tim Sheens for the National Rugby League club's improving form by granting a two-year extension to his contract.
PENRITH Panthers coach John Lang has named a full strength team to take on the high flying Wests Tigers team at Penrith Stadium ,7-30 Friday night.
After the dissapointment of last weekends loss to the Broncos, Lang is certain to have his team firing for this game.
The team is;
IN a devastating blow to their already flagging prospects, the Wests Tigers have lost halfback Ben Reynolds for the rest of the National Rugby League season with a double leg fracture.
STORM prop Alex Chan has received his second charge this season for a careless high tackle after the National Rugby League match review committee had a look at the thump he gave North Queensland's Micheal Luck at the weekend.
SYDNEY City Roosters coach Ricky Stuart has stuck with his tried and true team this week and has not made any changes to his side which beat the Dragons in the ANZAC day thriller last Sunday.
Stuarts team is;