As January rolls on we’re getting into the depths of pre-season with almost all teams having played once and some teams twice. Whilst last week saw a cold snap and plenty of postponements this weekend looks set to be busy with action on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
The schedule for this weekend sees plenty of teams in action as teams wind up for what’s unofficially ‘week three’ of pre-season however the professional clubs seem to have bypassed Saturday.
Last week we saw Leigh face Leeds in an all Super League clash on the Saturday, but this week we’re treated to plenty of BARLA Cup action, including a huge final double header.
Here’s a list of the games to look forward to.
Friday 27th January
St Helens vs Widnes: 8pm at Totally Wicked Stadium – Mark Percival’s Testimonial
Saturday 28th January
Fryston Warriors vs Normanton Knights: 2pm at Featherstone’s Millennium Stadium – Yorkshire Cup Final
Ten other teams are in action across five games with a link to fixture information here.
Sunday 29th January
Salford Red Devils vs Swinton Lions: 1pm at the AJ Bell Stadium
Wakefield Trinity vs Featherstone Rovers: 2pm at Belle Vue
Leeds Rhinos vs Bradford Bulls: 2.30pm at Headingley
Barrow Raiders vs Wigan Warriors: 3pm at Craven Park
Hunslet vs Batley Bulldogs: 3pm at the South Leeds Stadium
Oldham vs Rochdale: 3pm at Whitebank Stadium
Sheffield vs Doncaster: 3pm at Olympic Legacy Park
Whitehaven vs Castleford: 3-m at the LEL Arena
Friday’s Pick: St Helens vs Widnes
Considering it’s the only game it’s quite evident that this has to be the pick of the games for Friday but even so it’s a fixture to look out for with Paul Wellens having named an interesting squad.
The man of the moment, Mark Percival, is unfortunate to miss out on his own fixture with the centre being allowed further time to rest by new head coach Wellens.
He’s not the only star to miss out as seven of the presumed first-team will be joining Percival in the stands watching as Jack Welsby, James Roby, Joe Batchelor, Matty Lees, Morgan Knowles, Tommy Makinson and Will Hopoate all miss out for varying reasons.
🔴⚪ 𝗣𝗘𝗥𝗖𝗜𝗩𝗔𝗟 𝗧𝗘𝗦𝗧𝗜𝗠𝗢𝗡𝗜𝗔𝗟 𝗦𝗤𝗨𝗔𝗗
Read more 👇#COYS
— St.Helens R.F.C. (@Saints1890) January 25, 2023
As for Widnes they send a strong squad with John Kear showing off his off-season signings including former Saint, Kyle Amor, who will be sure to get a warm welcome on his return.
Here's a reminder of the 23-man squad that will visit Super League champions @Saints1890 tonight!
🎟️ Tickets can be bought below!
— Widnes Vikings (@WidnesRL) January 27, 2023
Prediction: St Helens 32 – Widnes 10
Saturday’s Pick: Fryston Warriors vs Normanton Knights
It’s Yorkshire Cup Final day at Featherstone’s Millennium Stadium and two talented amateur side face off and fans can attend for just £5. With no professional games being played on Saturday it’s a great opportunity to show some support to the amateur game and the fixture is also a double header.
The Under 16’s final will commence at midday before being followed by the open age final meaning that for just a fiver (£3 for concessions with U16s free), fans can watch two games of the highest quality amateur rugby in the comfort of a professional stadium.
1️⃣ Sleep! The @BarlaCups Yorkshire Cup Finals return to The Millennium Stadium tomorrow! 🏆@Drigrugby take on @WestHullARLFC in the U16s Final before @NormantonARLFC battle it out in the Open Age Final against @FrystonARLFC! pic.twitter.com/jbU4WZJSdH
— Featherstone Rovers (@FevRoversRLFC) January 27, 2023
Sunday’s Pick: Wakefield Trinity vs Featherstone Rovers
The pick of a very busy Sunday schedule sees two of the unbeaten and impressive sides of pre-season face off. They’re also the sides that at the moment are fancied by bookmakers to make way for one another in their respective leagues with Wakefield favourites for the drop and Featherstone the most fancied to earn promotion.
That will make it very interesting how they face up against each other in terms of quality and intensity. Both teams have young new head coaches and both have taken pre-season on at full speed with incredibly strong line-ups being named.
Trinity have defeated Leeds Rhinos and Halifax Panthers whilst Rovers are on a Super League spree as they’ve defeated rivals Castleford Tigers and Hull Kingston Rovers as well. The result of this fixture will surely be the most anticipated of the weekend and Trinity boss, Mark Applegarth, is taking no chances having named what looks close to a full strength side.
📰 TEAM NEWS
Mark Applegarth has named his team to face @FevRoversRLFC on Sunday afternoon at the Be Well Support Stadium, KO 2pm. ✔️
— Wakefield Trinity (@WTrinityRL) January 27, 2023
As for Featherstone they’re yet to name their squad but given the momentum they’re stringing together ahead of their Championship opener, just eight days after Sunday’s match, they could name another strong side. Long could also go the opposite way and rest some of his stars ahead of their trip to Keighley but either way it’s a great litmus test for the Championship favourites.
Prediction: Wakefield Trinity 26 – Featherstone Rovers 16
Due to the heavy congestion of fixtures on Sunday it’s worth mentioning a couple of the other games, particularly the rivalry game between Leeds Rhinos and Bradford Bulls with the match featuring many cross-overs including Rhinos’ star James Donaldson as well as recently acquired full-back for Bradford, Jack Walker. The game sees another Rohan Smith experiment and a more in-depth preview can be found here.
Salford host Swinton as well with the new Championship side making the short six mile journey to face Super League opposition in a game that will give Paul Rowley the chance to blood in some new signings.
A final game of note and another tie that sees two local neighbours going at it is Doncaster visiting the Olympic Legacy Park to face Sheffield Eagles. Separated by just over 20 miles and one division the Eagles will look to build on their successful triple-header last week against Hull FC, whilst Doncaster will be keen to show off their former Super League recruit Brett Ferres.