Thursday, 1 March 2007

Quins find Wolves at the door

Saturday will see the visit of Warrington Wolves, one of Super League’s most unpredictable and entertaining sides. Led by the mercurial Lee Briers, one of British rugby league’s most debated players, the Wolves sit in sixth place on the ladder after three rounds, with tight wins over Wigan and Hull, and a defeat against current table toppers Bradford.

Wolves coach Paul Cullen will definitely be without star signing Adrian Morley who is out with a fractured eye socket sustained in round one, along with standoff Chris Bridge who tore a hamstring against Wigan. However, experienced back-rower Mike Wainwright will provide more than capable cover for Morley and former Cronulla halfback Michael Sullivan will provide plenty of guidance steering the side alongside Briers.

In the backs Warrington are likely to miss winger Richie Barnett, but still have some Great Britain internationals Paul Johnson, Martin Gleeson and Stuart Reardon, whilst Brent Grose and Henry Fa’afili offer a combination of power and pace down the flanks. Former Kiwi international winger Fa’afili is likely to be a particular threat on the end of Briers attacking kicking game.

Up front Warrington have some formidable options with powerful former Kiwi prop Paul Rauhihi one to watch. Back-row players Ben Westwood and Vinnie Anderson offer plenty of mobility to the pack, whilst Mark Gleeson and former London player Jon Clarke offer contrasting styles of dummy half play at hooker.

Undoubtedly the key to stopping Warrington will be shutting down Lee Briers, who has become a talismanic presence for the Wolves since his switch from hometown club St Helens ten years ago. Briers possesses one of the most complete kicking games in British rugby league; his forty-twenty kicks are a major weapon in the Wolves armoury and his noted drop-goal skills have snatched late points for the side on many occasions. However, he is not regarded as a particularly physical player nor as a particularly effective defender and sides that shut him down usually find that the whole Warrinton side loses cohesion as a result.

As far as Quins are concerned the only major injury is to second-row Lee Hopkins who fractured a rib in last week’s win over Hull KR. Prop Daniel Heckenberg is available for selection for the first time this season and new signing Richard Villasanti is expected to come into contention to make his debut for the club.

The return to fitness of Quins own talisman Mark McLinden is also expected to create a headache for Brian McDermott; Chris Melling has been an outstanding performer in McLinden’s regular fullback slot in his absence, whilst the hooker and halves combinations are also gelling well. Speculation is that the versatile Melling may move to either the centre or wing with either Tyrone Smith or Matt Gafa making way.

Whatever the final line-ups the match is likely to serve up an entertaining spectacle between two sides that have shown promising form in the opening rounds of Super League.

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