Super League is back today and it starts with a bang in a game that has been a Grand Final in the past as Warrington Wolves host Leeds Rhinos on Thursday night in a repeat of the 2012 Grand Final.
These two teams have met in the opening games of the 2022, 2019, 2018 and 2016 seasons with the Wolves winning three of the four prior meetings.
When these two sides meet on the opening day one usually goes on to contest at least one major final by the end of the season. Will it be the case in 2023?
It is an interesting game with the Rhinos coming into the season on the back of making an unlikely Grand Final in 2022 under Rohan Smith who has now enjoyed his first pre-season at Headingley.
The Rhinos have decided to reduce the average age of their squad allowing some star players to leave and bringing in some stars of the future.
The Wolves have done the opposite approach after finishing 11th in 2022. Daryl Powell has brought in some top stars in the middle of the field to revitalise his pack as he brings in plenty of experience to the club.
Both sides are enigmas going into the new season and both will be keen to start with a win after all they both know what bad form can do to a season.
However, as everyone tries to solve these enigmas, a little more light has been shed them with the announcement of the teams.
Daryl Powell has named a very strong team with three debutants compared to Leeds’ four.
Josh Drinkwater starts in the halves, Paul Vaughan at prop and Sam Kasiano on the bench.
The Wolves are without star signings Josh McGuire and Gil Dudson through suspension and injury which shows just how impressive their pack will be in 2023.
Their backline is 1-7 whilst in the pack James Harrison has the job of replacing McGuire at 13.
Powell has picked Daryl Clark over Danny Walker at nine.
🐺 Our line-up for the season opener!
W/ @CheshireMould pic.twitter.com/q0p2gguuLK
— Warrington Wolves (@WarringtonRLFC) February 16, 2023
The big decision for Rohan Smith was what to do with the centres with Harry Newman and Nene MacDonald out injured.
In essence, Smith has named four wingers in Luis Roberts, David Fusitu’a, Ash Handley and Derrell Olpherts and it seems first choice wingers Fusitu’a and Handley will start in the centres.
At prop Sam Lisone debuts alongside Tom Holroyd in the absence of Mikolaj Oledzki. Zane Tetevano surprisingly starts at 13 keeping new number 13 on the bench in a surprise.
Kruise Leeming gets the nod over Jarrod O’Connor at nine.
Justin Sangare debuts from the bench.