It is time to start taking Harlequins' play-off credentials very seriously indeed. The 27-16 victory on 11 March at St Helens' temporary home in Widnes was their fourth win in five games this season. While their coach, Rob Powell, is not getting carried away, he knows they have already exceeded many people's expectations for their season.
"We aren't talking about the play-offs yet," he insisted after seeing his side account for Saints more emphatically than the scoreline reveals. "We've competed five times and we have to do it 22 times more."
Harlequins did rather more than compete with a flat and insipid St Helens; for most of the match they played them off the park despite some enforced changes, one of which Powell is able to reverse today, with the return of David Howell from suspension in the centres.
Quins face a tougher task against Warrington, a team with a similar record of only one defeat so far this season. The Wolves should also be particularly fresh, because their coach, Tony Smith, rested a series of first-choice players with a varietyof minor niggles for last week's game at Wakefield. Brett Hodgson, Adrian Morley and the Monaghan brothers, Michael and Joel, are all expected to return today, giving Warrington a formidable look.
Not that Smith is taking anything for granted."Quins deserve to be where they are. I've seen all their games and they've played really strong," he said.
"They are one of those really honest teams where if you don't work hard you don't beat them."
Terry Matterson, the coach of unbeaten Castleford, feels under no pressure to rush back his former captain, Ryan Hudson, after a shoulder injury. Hudson did the damage in the first round of matches and two young hookers, the England Academy captain, Adam Milner, and the 18-year-old Daryl Clark, have done the job admirably since then.
Matterson is also still without Ryan McGoldrick, a fixture for the last three seasons but ruled out so far this year by a knee injury, as he names an unchanged squad of 19 for today's trip to Bradford.
That includes Craig Huby, the prop currently in the best form of hiscareer, who agreed a new, three-year contract last week. Huby's omission from the recently announced England training squad is a mystery to everyone from Cas, with Brett Ferres the only Tiger to make the cut.
Bradford have already shown plenty of signs of emulating last season's inconsistency, but they at least have three key players returning at Odsal today. Jamie Langley comes into the back row of the pack, Heath L'Estrange is likely to resume as the starting hooker and Kyle Briggs, who showed signs early in the season of solving the club's stand-off problem, is earmarked for that role.
On the downside, Ian Sibbit and Gareth Raynor are both ruled out through new injuries as the Bulls try to dent Super League's only perfect record.
Nigel Wright has been appointed the new coach of Barrow after being assistant to Garry Schofield, who was sacked this week.Reuse content