Huddersfield hope to shake off pre-season problems

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The Independent Online

Huddersfield face the first major test of their ability to concentrate on their game rather than their off-field troubles tonight. The Giants were Super League's Club of the Year last season, finishing third and reaching the Challenge Cup final. Their preparations for 2010 have been wrecked, however, by rape accusations that have left six unnamed players on police bail waiting to find out whether they will be charged.

For this evening's opening fixture at home to Bradford, their coach Nathan Brown has been able to name a full-strength side, including Paul Whatuira, who spent time in a psychiatric unit last year after a breakdown. The New Zealander is said to be fully recovered, but the visit of the Bulls will be a searching test of Huddersfield's ability to focus on the new season.

Bradford, who missed the play-offs for the first time last year, have a new look, with the Australians Brett Kearney, Matt Orford, Heath L'Estrange and Glenn Hall all making their debuts. Andy Lynch captains the Bulls for the first time.

At Wigan, there is a speedy return for their former coach Brian Noble, now in charge of Crusaders. Noble did not have his contract renewed after three and a half years with the Warriors, but says that he is not bitter. "I had a fabulous time at Wigan and I think we did a pretty good job there from where we started," he said.

After an encouraging first effort against Leeds last Friday, Noble is able to add the newly-arrived Weller Hauraki and two of his born-and-bred Welshmen, Elliot Kear and Ben Flower, to his squad.

Wigan will have a familiar look, with only Paul Deacon, a player he coached at Bradford, added to the side he guided last season.

Champions Leeds were less than impressive for an hour at Wrexham last week, but have Brent Webb and Jamie Peacock back after being rested for that match. Opponents Castleford could give a debut to the highly-rated teenage forward, John Davies.

England will not play in Sydney during this autumn's Four Nations. Their fixtures are against New Zealand in Wellington on 23 October, Australia in Melbourne on 31 October and Papua New Guinea as part of a double-header in Auckland on 6 November. The final of the tournament is in Brisbane on 13 November.

Super League will be shown across the United States this season, following a deal with the network, One America.

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