We look at some of the talking points as FC host Rovers in Super League’s Hull derby on Friday evening, plus a look at Castleford Tigers’ home game against Wigan Warriors…
Connor relishing chance in halves
Jake Connor seized the long-sought opportunity to play at stand-off for Hull FC in their win away to Leeds Rhinos, but knows he faces a fight to keep the position.
The 25-year-old pulled the strings in the halves as the Black and Whites kicked off the 2020 Super League campaign with a 30-4 victory away to the Rhinos and is eager to continue there in this Friday’s derby clash at home to Hull KR.
But Connor acknowledges head coach Lee Radford has some tough selection choices to make, particularly with Albert Kelly waiting in the wings after not being included in last week’s matchday 17.
“It’s something that I’ve always wanted to play,” Connor said. “I’ve had a good pre-season, things to learn and to take into the game, not to over-complicate things.
“With the conditions, I wasn’t over-playing, kept it simple and used the players around me.
“Hopefully after that game I can keep the spot, but Albert is a world-class player – everyone knows that.
“Like Radders has said before, it’s a tough team to pick and no-one would want to be in that spot. You’ve just got to accept it and get on with it, but the right team was out there against Leeds and we got the job done.”
Radford welcomes Danny Houghton back into his 21-man squad after the hooker missed the win over Leeds with a thumb injury, but off-season signing Manu Ma’u and Gareth Ellis are ruled out after picking up knocks at Headingley.
Meanwhile, newcomers Ligi Sao, Josh Jones, Jordan Johnstone and Adam Swift could make their first home appearances in the match against Rovers, with Radford having plenty of options to choose from.
“I’ve got some headaches because there were a couple of blokes not playing for us that would walk into a lot of teams in the competition as well,” Radford said.
Hull FC vs Hull K R
February 7, 2020, 7:00pm
Abdull hails Rovers’ attitude
Like their rivals from the west of the city, Hull Kingston Rovers began the 2020 season with a victory as they defeated Wakefield Trinity 30-12 last Friday.
It was the perfect way to answer those who had tipped the Robins to finish bottom of the table this year after narrowly avoiding relegation.
Jordan Abdull, who was one of 20 new signings to arrive at Rovers ahead of the season, believes the team will be good enough to trouble any of the other sides if they can produce similar performances.
“I thought we were the better team all the way through, really,” Abdull said. “We probably had a five to 10-minute patch where we couldn’t get hold of the ball, but we felt comfortable out there.
“We could’ve easily just stuck it up the jumper and gone five in and kicked, but we wanted to stick to the game-plan and it paid off in the end.
“If we can keep turning up with that attitude and that pride then teams are really going to struggle to get results against us.”
Rovers triumphed in two of the three Hull derbies in Super League last year, but were beaten 56-12 in the match which was held at the Black and White’s KCOM Stadium home.
Ben Crooks, whose four tries helped Hull KR vanquish Trinity, knows how different these encounters are from regular league fixtures.
“You’ve got to try and go about your business as though it’s a normal game,” Crooks told KR TV. “However, you know in the back of your mind that it’s not
“It’s not a normal game and we’ve seen that throughout the years, on the day it doesn’t matter the form going into it and anything can happen on the day.”
Rovers head coach Tony Smith brings Matty Gee, Will Dagger and Kyle Trout into his 21-man squad after the trio impressed for the reserves last week.
Powell and Lam look for more
Friday’s other match pits two teams who won in the opening round of Super League as well, but both are eyeing improvements from those games.
???? Daryl Powell has announced his 21-man squad for Castleford’s first home game of the season! Sponsored by @motorpoint
Oliver Holmes is back for match selection and five young Tigers are competing to make their Super League debuts.
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Castleford Tigers, fresh from overcoming promoted Toronto Wolfpack 28-10, welcome a Wigan Warriors side which opened with a 16-10 win at home to Warrington Wolves.
Tigers head coach Daryl Powell was pleased with the outcome of the clash which formed part of the Headingley double-header, yet believes his side are capable of better performances.
“It was an awkward game,” Powell said. “There are a lot of offloads in them and a lot of hype around them, but I thought we handled it pretty well. The game died a little in the second half, but we’d got it won by then.
“Collectively, we did some smart things, but we were never really in a flow in the game. They got bits off our errors, but we’ve got to be pleased with it.”
The hosts will, however, be without George Griffin, Adam Milner and Tyla Hepi due to head injuries sustained in the win over Toronto, with try-scorer Greg Eden out due to a knee injury and Peter Mata’utia serving a two-match suspension.
Wigan, meanwhile, are without off-season recruit George Burgess after he was forced off early on against Warrington with a hip injury. Sam Powell is included in the 21-man squad, but his availability depends on passing concussion protocols.
Warriors head coach Adrian Lam was impressed with what he saw from the Tigers against Toronto and has identified areas for improvement from his team.
“I thought they were pretty good and they are always tough on their home ground,” Lam said. “We were beaten there last year so we understand what difficult opposition they can be.
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