Hull fans fear the worst in battle for bragging rights
Saturday 25 July 2009
There seems little doubt which half of Hull is looking forward to today's Humberside derby in a positive frame of mind. For the first time since Hull KR's promotion to Super League re-activated rugby league's most passionate local rivalry, Hull have not been able to sell their allocation of tickets for Craven Park.
Hull's supporters have solid grounds for their pessimism. On the home straight in another injury-plagued season, Hull are running 11th; by contrast, Rovers have been in the top four all season.
For this evening's meeting Rovers should also have two important former Hull players available. Shaun Briscoe should be fit after a shoulder injury that kept him out at Leeds last week, while Paul Cooke is expected to recover from a hamstring strain.
However, for all their impressive early season form, the Robins have lost more than they have won of late. Likewise, Hull might have been poor, but they are still only one win away from the top eight and the play-offs.
There is, in other words, plenty to play for, even if their fans cannot quite bear to watch it. Hull have their late-season reinforcement, Jordan Tansey, making his second appearance, and Chris Thorman back in the squad after being dropped last week.
Down at Harlequins, St Helens still have more than their share of injury problems, but they should have Chris Flannery and Kyle Eastmond back after mumps. The latter should at least cure Saints' goal-kicking problems. Paul Wellens, who missed all six of his shots last week, is out with a broken hand, as is James Roby.
Quins could be considerably more recognisable if their mid-field triangle of Chad Randall, Luke Dorn and Danny Orr are all fit to return.
Celtic Crusaders have Josh Hannay back at centre against a Bradford side whose play-off hopes have died. They could have Glenn Morrison back in their pack after a rib injury, at the end of a week in which he was told that his contract was not being renewed.
The second-rower is already in talks with Wakefield, who are at home to Castleford tomorrow in another derby.
James Stosic will play for the Wildcats despite having his eye-socket fractured by a stray blow from Keiron Cunningham last weekend, but Matt Petersen is out with a flare up of an old knee injury. Castleford will be without the suspended Brett Ferres.
Blackpool Panthers, who won the inaugural Northern Rail Nines two weeks ago, have been invited to compete in the Headingley Nines next month.
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