Super League is set to be played in front of a crowd for the first time since the season restarted when Catalans Dragons face Wigan Warriors on Saturday.
French authorities have allowed 5,000 to attend the match, which will see two of the top sides in the competition go head-to-head.
Meanwhile, there is quick turnaround for Castleford Tigers and Hull FC as they clash in the Challenge Cup on Sunday, and we look at some talking points ahead of both matches…
Live S/Lge: Catalans v Wigan
September 12, 2020, 4:55pm
McNamara: Points percentage ‘the fairest solution’
The most immediate beneficiaries of the decision to switch to deciding this year’s Super League table on points percentage were Catalans, who sit second following Warrington Wolves’ 12-10 victory over Castleford on Thursday night.
The decision was taken to account for any teams being unable to complete their full allocation of 20 fixtures in this pandemic-disrupted season and the competition’s French side are most in danger of that, having only played seven games so far for a variety of reasons beyond their control.
There is the caveat that teams will have to have played a minimum of 15 matches to qualify for the play-offs unless they finish in the top four on competition points anyway and Catalans head coach Steve McNamara backed the decision.
“It can’t be equal, but it can be fair and this is the fairest solution,” McNamara said. “You can’t punish a team because it hasn’t been able to play as many fixtures as the others through no fault of their own.
🏉 21 MAN SQUAD
Steve McNamara vient d'annoncer son groupe pour le match face à Wigan
▶ Lucas Albert, Samisoni Langi, Julian Bousquet, Lewis Tierney
❌ Micky McIlorum, Josh Drinkwater, David Mead, Tom Davies.
🇬🇧 https://t.co/5Ct0GDknwJ#Dragons 🐉 pic.twitter.com/KlDLXI0iUV
“It wasn’t our fault we had the weekend off because of the World Club Challenge or that Storm Ciara hit us or that Leeds didn’t come to us before all of the initial breakdown.
“We will play as many games as we possibly can but, if we run out of time, a system is in place that is fair to everybody.”
Saturday’s match in Perpignan against fellow high-flyers Wigan, which is live on Sky Sports and kicks off at 5pm UK time, will also be the first since Super League resumed to be played in front of a crowd as 5,000 season-ticket holders and sponsors will be allowed into Stade Gilbert Brutus.
“It’s brilliant,” Wigan head coach Adrian Lam said. “I think everyone’s excited about that and also the challenge of facing Catalans.”
🗞🏉 SQUAD NEWS | Adrian Lam has named the @WiganWarriorsRL 21-man squad to face @DragonsOfficiel this Saturday in Round 12 of @SuperLeague. #WWRL #SLCatWig pic.twitter.com/XXQSFsfPm1
The Warriors are aiming to bounce back after suffering a surprise 32-18 defeat to bottom side Hull Kingston Rovers last week and face the added challenge of having to fly in and out of France on the day.
That means an early-morning start and having to wait in the stadium for nearly four hours prior to kick-off, but Lam is well aware it is no different to what Catalans have had to face when travelling to the UK for their games in August.
“It’s going to be a tough exercise,” Lam said. “We know what the challenges are and, if we come away with the two points, everyone knows it’s going to be an amazing job.
“They’ve been doing this every week; it must have been tough on them.”
Up for the Cup
The one outstanding Challenge Cup sixth-round tie takes place on Sunday at Totally Wicked Stadium, with Castleford taking on Hull FC just three days after their most recent respective Super League matches.
Both were involved in close-fought matches on Thursday, with Hull holding on to defeat Wakefield 26-23 and Castleford going down by two points against Warrington.
Head coach Andy Last was pleased to see the Black and Whites see out the match to pick up the win and is eager to build on their second-half performance when they face Cas.
“With the close nature of the contest, it would have been devastating to lose it late on,” Last said. “It would have been a kick in the guts going into the game against Castleford on Sunday.
Is it that time of the week again already? 🤯
📋 Making eight changes, Andy Last has named his 21-man squad for Sunday's Coral Challenge Cup Sixth Round clash against @CTRLFC, brought to you in association with @JadanPress…
Squad News 👇
“I wasn’t happy with the way we played in the first half. We got off to a reasonable start but then we weren’t prepared to do the tough stuff.
“There were too many unforced errors from key individuals, but I thought we fixed that second half.”
Last has made eight changes to his 21-man squad for the Cup clash, with Jamie Shaul, Carlos Tuimavave, Josh Griffin, Manu Ma’u, Ligi Sao, Jordan Johnstone, Gareth Ellis, and Ratu Naulago all being recalled.
Opposite number Daryl Powell makes just three changes. Sosaia Feki is in line for his competitive debut for the club, Jake Trueman is available again after recovering from a back injury and Cheyse Blair is recalled to the team.
🏆 Daryl Powell has named his Tigers 21-man squad for this Sunday's @TheChallengeCup tie against Hull FC.
Three changes from the squad that was announced for Thursday night's match with Feki, Trueman and Blair stepping in.#ReadyToRoar | #COYF
📰 Read more 👇
The Tigers head coach is looking for his side to find a level of consistency after being disappointed with their showing in the defeat to Warrington.
“It’s frustrating,” Powell said. “We’re just not playing great at the minute, our concentration is a bit off, we’re up and down, we can’t piece a game together where we have any consistency.
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