One of the most important parts of any team is the pack. A big, powerful and hardworking pack can be the difference between success and failure. Often it is the pack that settles the biggest games and leads to success at Old Trafford.
With that in mind we’re ranking the five best packs going into the 2022 Super League season and it must be said it was incredibly difficult and plenty of other packs could very well have featured and depending on form and performance throughout the season, this list could look very different come the end of the year.
5. Hull FC
Hull FC’s early success in 2021 was down to the two men leading their pack week on week. With Scott Taylor out injured, Chris Satae and Ligi Sao stepped up massively and often caused opposition defences endless problems with marauding runs down the middle. With Taylor back fit, it gives the Black and Whites further depth in that area as does the arrival of Kane Evans. Meanwhile, in the backrow Hull FC have two fantastic and hardworking 13s in the shape of Jordan Lane and Joe Cator whilst both Andre Savelio and Manu Ma’u are outstanding and powerful second-rowers. All together this gives the Black and Whites an almighty pack going into 2022.
Castleford certainly have one of the most underappreciated packs in the league. They were already fantastic last season but the arrival of Joe Westerman and George Lawler, both players who shone in 2021 with differing but complimentary skillsets, their middle men look even more formidable in 2022. The arrival of Westerman and Lawler mean they’re spoilt for choice at 13 with Adam Milner already at the club whilst the quality of Liam Watts, Daniel Smith, George Griffin and co at prop means they have power and importantly a sprinkling of skill in the front row.
Arguably Leeds only made the play-offs in 2021 due to the quality of their pack. With outside backs constantly changing and a first choice halfback pairing that only played 12 minutes together, Leeds had to use power and stubbornness to win games. The brilliance of their pack can be seen in how many tries the two hookers Kruise Leeming and Brad Dwyer notched in 2021. The duo finished the year as Leeds’ top scorers and that was thanks to the domination of the ruck ensured by Leeds’ big men. Mikolaj Oledzki, now an England international, was at times the best prop in the league last year whilst few players have the engine of Matt Prior who also has a terrific passing game. Meanwhile, Zane Tetevano is still a fantastic international despite an up and down first season in Super League. With an array of outstanding backrowers added to by the arrival of the brilliant James Bentley, Leeds have plenty of players they can trust in the middle whilst the likes of Cameron Smith can offer something a bit different. Perhaps the thing that lets them down is the lack of depth at prop especially following Tom Holroyd’s injury.
Meanwhile the Dragons have enviable depth at prop with Gil Dudson, Julian Bousquet, Sam Kasiano and NRL winner Dylan Napa to choose from. Napa’s arrival adds further quality to an already impressive pack complete with arguably Super League’s most devastating substitute in the shape of Kasiano. Skipper Ben Garcia is a top 13 and Steve McNamara is getting the best out of Mike McMeeken and Matt Whitley who together form potentially Super League’s best and most threatening backrow. Meanwhile, the presence of Benjamin Jullien, Mickael Goudemand and others gives them terrific depth down the middle.
1. St Helens
Who else was it going to be? There’s a reason St Helens have won three Grand Finals in a row and it might be thanks to their dominance down the middle. They have both the best prop and 13 in the league in the shape of Alex Walmsley and Morgan Knowles. Walmsley single-handedly destroys teams at times but he’s not alone in the quality he offers. Matty Lees is an underappreciated prop whilst the likes of Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook and Kyle Amor offer superb depth and Agnatius Paasi is a brilliant super-sub Kristian Woolf can rely on. Their backrow is top tier with Sione Mata’utia catching the eye at the end of 2021. Ultimately, you just have to look at the ease at which Saints have won the last two semi-finals to see the quality of their forwards. Their victories over Catalans and Leeds on the road to the Grand Final in 2020 and 2021 were secured by an aggregate score of 86-10 all thanks to the dominance of their pack.