St Helens will encounter not one but two familiar faces when they arrive at the Brewery Field today. Steven Tyrer, on loan from Saints, will make his first-team debut for the Celtic Crusaders after his exploits for their reserves last weekend.
The centre accumulated 32 points, from four tries and eight goals, in the 48-40 win over Leeds. "Steve came to us to play Super League," John Dixon, the Crusaders coach, said. "The fact that his debut comes against St Helens is coincidental. He's ready."
Tyrer gets his chance because of a knee injury to Luke Dyer, while a similar injury means that Jace Van Dijk is not fit to return. Matty Smith, the Crusaders other loanee from St Helens, will continue at scrum-half.
With Saints' squad looking thin, lending out two of their brighter prospects seems a little over-generous. They are, however, able to add Leon Pryce and Jason Cayless to the squad that lost to Hull KR last week.
Crusaders have another debutant – perhaps, their most significant – Lincoln Withers. The former Canberra Raiders utility player is fit after 10 months out for knee surgery. His best position and the one Celtics have in mind is hooker, but he could be eased back via the bench today.
Greg Bird, having completed his French immigration paperwork, is due to make his debut for the Catalan Dragons against Castleford today. The Tigers coach, Terry Matterson, has expressed his disquiet at a situation where a French club can sign and register Bird, who faces an assault charge in Australia next month, but a British club cannot.
That, he says with some justification, is hardly a level playing field. He does at least have the consolation of taking an unchanged squad to Perpignan after an encouraging start to the season. The same cannot be said of the two illustrious clubs who collide this evening at the JJB Stadium. Wigan's rather fortuitous victory at Harlequins last Saturday was their first of the season. Shaun Ainscough, 19, and Sam Tomkins, 19, two young players who played a significant part in securing the win, keep their places in the squad, but it will be intriguing to see whether Brian Noble has enough confidence to start with both against Bradford.
The Bulls coach, Steve McNamara, an old colleague of Noble, has had just as many problems this season, with a crop of injuries and only one point from two games.
Tony Smith takes charge of Warrington for the first time tomorrow, when Leeds, the club where he did such good work, are the visitors. Wakefield's excellent start to the season will be given a severe test at Hull KR, who showed their resilience at St Helens last week.Reuse content