Gower keen to put one over on his old mentor

 

The St Helens coach, Royce Simmons, will come across a familiar face he did not expect to see in rugby league again when they kick off their season today.

Saints are the first visitors to the newly rebranded London Broncos, who will be captained by one of their eight debutants, the former Australian Test scrum-half, Craig Gower.

"I brought Craig into first grade at Penrith at 17 and we've stayed in contact," Simmons said. "He's a real winner and one of the most competitive individuals I've ever worked with."

Gower is now coming into the twilight of a long career, during which he has also played rugby union for Italy.

Simmons believes he is typical of a recruitment policy that will make London more formidable this season. Apart from Gower, the Manly duo of Michael Robertson and Shane Rodney are also due to make their first appearances. "When you look at who they've signed, there's a lot of players who have been in big games. Maybe early in the season is a good time to meet them before they develop too many combinations."

Simmons has patterns of play of his own to develop, especially those involving his key new signing, Lance Hohaia. The New Zealand international can play either half-back position, full-back or hooker, so it will be intriguing to see how Saints will use him.

Simmons will be most reluctant to split the young pairing of Lee Gaskell and Jonny Lomax that performed so impressively last season.

Full-back is a likelier starting place for Hohaia, with the regular incumbent, Paul Wellens, struggling with an Achilles injury, but hoping to be fit to lead Saints out in their first match at their new stadium next weekend.

Salford christen theirs – at least as far as competitive action is concerned – with the visit of Castleford this evening. The City Reds need to average 8,000 – as opposed to less than 5,000 in their last season at The Willows – to break even at the Salford City Stadium, so they need to establish early that their new home is a place where they can both entertain and win.

The Australian imports Shannon McPherson and Joel Moon are among Salford's newcomers and both sides have a new coach – the Reds' Phil Veivers and Ian Millward for Cas.

Millward's return at this level, after a second stint at Leigh, can only enliven Super League. Much will depend, however, on whether Rangi Chase and Danny Orr can replicate their inspiring early form of 2011.

The South Wales Scorpions have pulled off a major coup by signing the former England stand-off Jamie Rooney. The Scorpions have also signed the former Penrith junior Rodney Peake.

John Kear, the coach of Batley, has called for a system of dual registration to allow players to turn out for their amateur clubs and for Championship sides.

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