The first Super League outing at the John Smiths this year is near enough a must-win for both sides. Of course it's far too early to be looking at league position with only one game played, but both sides have fresh experience of how a poor start can affect a season. In 2017 it took Warrington 8 games to get their first win, the year before the Giants found themselves going into round 11 with only one victory to their name. Both teams followed up these respective slow starts with a stint in the qualifiers, battling for survival while their former Super League rivals enjoyed the safety and security of a top 8 spot. Neither team will want to go through that again and after both failing to pick up wins in round 1, neither will settle for anything less than the 2 points. But who's going to get them?
If you ask the bookies, Warrington. Depending on where you look, most sites have Wire winning by 6-8 points. It's perhaps understandable after our meltdown last week, but it's hard to say which Huddersfield Giants will feature. As we mentioned in our Hull recap, it was an inconsistent performance. If we turn up on Thursday night and emulate that opening 40 minutes at the KCOM, we could be on to nill them for a third successive year (yes, friendlies count). If we carry on with our form from the second half, in which we actually were nilled, then it's going to be a very difficult game.
There's two changes to the Giants' pregame squad this week, with Michael Lawrence and Adam Walne being replaced by Tyler Dickinson and Colton Roche. Bruno and Walne were two of our better performers against Hull so their loss will definitely have an impact, fortunately I liked what I saw of Roche in the preseason and Dickinson really came into his own at the back end of last season, so it will be good to see at least one of them get some game time.
While there's only two changes to the 19, expect another change on the day. Despite several Warrington fans assuring me he'd signed for them over the off-season, Jerry is expected to feature for the claret and gold this Thursday and his return will be a welcome one. We struggled to get off our line in the last 40 at Hull, and if there's one thing we know about Jerry it's that he loves a good kick return, so expect him to give us a boost early on in the sets. It's unclear who will make way out of Murphy or Mcintosh, both wingers made some pretty soft defensive errors last week, particularly Murphy on the Jake Connor try, but he was also the only Giant to make over 100m and that may carry some weight when Stone picks his man.
The key player for the Giants will be Ikahihifo. He had a good game at Hull but maybe wasn't up to his own very high standards. With Bruno, Walne and Wakeman all out, we'll need Seb to step up his intensity and match what Ukuma brought to the table last week.
Warrington name an unchanged squad from their narrow loss against Leeds, which is unsurprising as it's arguably their strongest 19.
Their key player will be Daryl Clark. After a fairly quiet 2017, the former Man of Steel will be looking to add some flair to the Wire's attack and expose some of the defensive weaknesses we saw at the KCOM
Where will the game be won
The winning team will have to start making the most of their chances. Huddersfield spent a lot of the first half on Hull's try line last week, but only managed to cross over twice. We need to execute better and convert pressure to points. The same can be said about our opponents, perhaps best demonstrated by Ryan Atkins' infamous attempt at flight. It's not surprising that both teams are looking for their attack to gel, it's a season of change in both camps. The coaches have switched up their halves with the arrivals of Rankin and Roberts, and are hoping for more stability in the fullback position after several players stepped into the role last year. Whichever team adapts best to the new set-up will likely come out on top in attack
On the other end of the pitch, both sides will need improved goalline defence to be really competitive. There were some real shockers in our second half last week, and while Warrington only conceded 3 tries in their fixture, they'll be looking to patch up some of the more basic errors that allowed Leeds through.
It should be an absolute cracker of a game either way, get in touch through the usual channels and let us know how you think it's going to go down!
1Jake Mamo2Jermaine McGillvary4Jordan Turner5Aaron Murphy6Lee Gaskell7Danny Brough8Sebastine Ikahihifo9Kruise Leeming13Ryan Hinchcliffe14Dale Ferguson15Jordan Rankin16Oliver Roberts17Ukuma Ta'ai18Paul Clough19Daniel Smith21Adam O'Brien23Darnell McIntosh24Tyler Dickinson25Colton Roche