In this edition of ‘Starting XVII’, we focus on Lee Radford’s Hull FC.
The Black and Whites have made several new signings in the off-season, with the recruitment of Mahe Fonua and Manu Ma’u both big statements of intent.
With a squad full of depth, though, where will they fit into the starting side?
Fullback – Jamie Shaul
Shaul is the obvious choice as one of Super League’s most dynamic fullbacks, but will likely face competition in 2020 for the first time in a while. 18-year-old Connor Wynne will be chomping at the bit to stake his claim after impressing fleetingly last season.
Wingers – Ratu Naulago and Bureta Faraimo
The outside backs are where FC have the most competition for places. They’ve recruited particularly well in that area and Lee Radford will undoubtedly have plenty of selection headaches. Naulago, Faraimo and Adam Swift are all contenders for the wing spots, but the form of the former two last season should secure their places.
Centres – Mahe Fonua and Carlos Tuimavave
With so much depth, there’ll likely be a reshuffle in the outside backs, with Fonua likely to line up alongside Tuimavave in the centres. The pair have bags of skill enabling them to set up tries for both themselves and the wingers outside them.
Halves – Jake Connor and Marc Sneyd
With the no.6 on his back, Connor has the pressure of being Radford’s starting halfback. His attitude has often been questioned but the responsibility could be exactly what’s needed to unlock his full potential. Goal kicking Sneyd will provide stability in the halves and allow Connor to play his off-the-cuff game.
Props – Scott Taylor and Tevita Satae
The engine room. Taylor and Satae had chance to start building their relationship in the forwards last season and will be looking to go into 2020 even stronger. Taylor’s impressive late footwork has the ability to catch defences off guard, while Satae’s sheer physicality and size should see him grind out the metres on a regular basis.
Hooker – Danny Houghton
Reliable as ever, Houghton will once again lead from the front in 2020. He’s the competition’s undisputed top tackler, while his vision and guile in attack is often at the root of tries.
Second Rowers – Josh Griffin and Manu Ma’u
Competition in the outside backs means Griffin could well shift into the back row. He has the size and physicality to act as a forward, whilst also adding extra pace on the flanks. On the opposite side, ‘Tongan Terminator’ Manu Ma’u will be on a mission to hit the ground running after joining from the NRL.
Loose Forward – Josh Jones
Jones impressed in the second row for Salford last year but could feature as a middle runner to accommodate for Griffin and Ma’u. It’s a position he is no stranger to, having played there for St Helens in the past, and will allow him and Houghton to lead from the front in defence.
Subs – Ligi Sao, Albert Kelly, Masi Matongo and Gareth Ellis
Like plenty of other teams, the Black and Whites have options on the bench but will likely go with three forwards and a back. Agile forwards Ligi Sao and Masi Matongo are there to switch up the front row and keep opposition defences guessing, while Gareth Ellis provides plenty of experience and leadership, not to mention his immense work ethic. Albert Kelly, meanwhile, adds that unpredictability and spark off the bench, should FC need an extra dangerman going forward. The likes of Brad Fash, Jordan Lane, Josh Bowden and Andre Savelio will all be pushing for spots as well.