Struggling Warrington host Hull FC on Friday night, as the home side search for a first win since April in a bid to put themselves back into play-off contention.
Hull FC have been far from their best recently, losing their last two games, but will see a game against a side in the bottom four as the perfect opportunity to get their season back on track. For Warrington, it’s another game in which they need to win as their hopes of the top six become more unlikely by the week.
Warrington welcome back Peter Mata’utia, who is back from suspension. James Harrison also makes the 21-man squad and will make his Warrington debut. They replace the outgoing Billy Magoulias and Kyle Amor. For the visitors, there are four changes; Carlos Tuimavave, Josh Reynolds, Jordan Johnstone and Charlie Severs are all absent from the squad. The youngsters Jacob Hookem, Aidan Burrell and Davy Litten are brought in, as well as Scott Taylor.
Match Preview – Key Battles
George Williams vs Luke Gale: These two have been picked out for their uncharacteristically sub-par performances this year. The quality that the two possess cannot be questioned, but this year they have failed to play to their full potential. Williams’ lack of form may be a reflection of the rest of his sides’ poor performances, but if he can stamp his authority on the game, he certainly gives them a better chance of getting a much needed two points. On the visitors’ side, the 2017 Man of Steel has been even more out of sorts. With halfback partner Josh Reynolds on his way out of the club, Gale needs to show leadership and experience to steady the ship and guide Hull to a much-needed victory.
Gareth Widdop vs Jamie Shaul: Neither Gareth Widdop nor Jamie Shaul were to be starting fullbacks at the beginning of the season, but they look likely to be going in as the fullbacks for Friday’s clash. The decision has been made to swap Widdop and Stefan Ratchford in recent weeks, with the former now taking on the fullback role. He no doubt has the quality for it, and has shown great support play on occasion. Equally, Jamie Shaul has the ability to turn a game on its head, as he famously did against Warrington in the 2016 Challenge Cup Final. Once considered one of the very best fullbacks in the league, if he can make the right runs for Luke Gale, there is the potential for dangerous attacks.
Where the game will be won and lost
As has been the story for much of Warrington’s season, their middles could be what loses them the game. The loss of Chris Hill in the pre-season was not properly dealt with, and they have looked lightweight all year. On the other side, Hull FC tend to rely on their middles without the creativity of Jake Connor, meaning they will likely look to use their advantage in the forwards to win the battle for field position. However, if Warrington are able to get their backs firing, then Williams and Widdop have the quality to tear almost any opposition apart, and with Connor Wrench in form they have a chance.
Score prediction: Warrington Wolves 12-20 Hull FC