Saint Brown ready to test old friends

 

The start of Nathan Brown's competitive coaching career at St Helens pits him against some familiar faces today.Brown spent almost four seasons in charge of Huddersfield, who will bring to Langtree Park the side that he built and – sporadically – had playing some of the best rugby in Super League, because they could also be unbelievably bad.

The man charged with ironing out those wild fluctuations in form is Brown's assistant and successor, Paul Anderson, who took over in July.

From his results at the end of last season and the signings he has made this winter, Anderson can be expected to field a team in his own image – big, powerful and uncomplicated.

"They've got some extra size in and Huddersfield are going to be pretty formidable in that middle part of the field," Brown said.

To help turn those forecasts into reality, the Giants have enlisted Stuart Fielden and Craig Kopczak, the Welsh international who left Bradford when crisis struck there last season. Fielden, who played alongside Anderson in the Bulls' "Awesome Foursome", is emerging from an injury plagued few seasons at Wigan and, like Kopczak, is in line to make his debut today.

Saints have their two signings from Hull, Willie Manu and Jordan Turner, ready to make their first appearances. There will be particular interest in how quickly Manu, a forward who looks perfectly adapted to St Helens's style of play, makes an impact.

Tomorrow Bradford start the campaign they thought they might never see at home to Wakefield. The Bulls have complained loud and long about being deprived of their share of the Sky money as a punishment for going into administration, so it will be intriguing to see whether they can carry last season's defiance into this, under a new, young coach, Francis Cummins.

Warrington have made no signings this winter but should have more than enough to account for Castleford, whose pre-season misfortunes included having copper cables stolen from their ground. Cas will be looking to Michael Shenton's return from St Helens to energise them.

Hull KR, still waiting for hoped-for investment, are at home to Catalan Dragons, who must manage for the opening weeks of the season without their outstanding half-back Scott Dureau following his eye operation.

London Broncos host Widnes, for whom Gareth Hock will make his first appearance, on loan from the Wigan club he has been so eager to leave.

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