Two game weekend should test the old mental capabilities.

This weekend, Andrewrileysportsjournalist hits up two very different games of rugby league. Here, he previews both games.

Well, it’s been a while since I felt well enough to not only attend back to back games, but to preview them AND match report both will be a stiff test of how my mental health is coping. Let’s start with the previews though. The simple bit.

First up on Friday night is Salford Devils and Castleford Tigers in the “Super 8’s” at the AJ Bell stadium.

Super League Super 5's
Super League Super 8’s

The last time the Tigers visited the home of the Devils, it was a tight, cagey affair, with Salford coming from behind to win the game 13-12, with Gareth O’Brien kicking the all important one pointer to seal a win that would be the first of five in a row for the Devils.

That run set Salford up for their best finish in a regular season since 1980.

Ian Watson has named a very strong side for Friday night.

Kris Brining is back after a spell on the sidelines, and Ryan Lannon also returns for a game that could have a very big say in the Devils charge for a Grand Final spot.

Michael Dobson is still not 100% after the knock he picked up in the Challenge cup game against Wigan, and Josh Wood and Kris Welham also miss out.

Salford fans will be pleased to see Tyrone McCarthy and Manu Vatuvei both take the field at home for the first time.

Jake Bibby, Kriss Brining, Todd Carney, Niall Evalds, George Griffin, Weller Hauraki, Greg Johnson, Josh Jones, Graig Kopczak, Olsi Krasniqi, Ryan Lannon, Robert Lui, Tyrone McCarthy, Daniel Murray, Ben Murdoch-Masila, Gareth O’Brien, Logan Tomkins, Adam Walne, Manu Vatuvei.

Tigers coach Daryl Powell has also named his 19 man squad

Matt Cook, Alex Foster, Luke Gale, Zak Hardaker, Jy Hitchcox, Oliver Holmes, Tom Holmes,   Nathan Massey, Mike McMeeken, Paul McShane, Grant Millington,  Adam Milner, Greg Minikin, Joel Monaghan, Ben Roberts, Jesse Sene-Lefao, Michael Shenton, Gadwin Springer,       Jake Webster.

Prediction? The Tigers are licking their wounds after losing to St. Helens at home last week, and will want to wrap up the league leaders shield sooner rather than later. My bet is Castleford by 8 to 12 points, but Salford will be looking to halt a slump.

Super 8's The Qualifiers
Super 8’s The Qualifiers

Slightly further down the league, Leigh Centurions take on Hull Kingston Rovers in the “Qualifiers”, with one team looking to retain top flight status whilst the other looks to return to where it, and it’s fans, feel it belongs.

Both sides got off to winning ways in round one, Leigh away at Featherstone Rovers in front of the Sky cameras, and Hull at home to Halifax, who surprised some by beating the Robins in the final round of the regular season.

Head coaches Tim Sheens and Neil Jukes will be looking for more of the same commitment from their respective charges in front of the Sky Cameras at Leigh Sports Village on Saturday afternoon.

Both coaches announced their squads for the afternoon kick off on Sky Sports.

Leigh Centurions (from) 1 Mitch Brown, 29 Lachlan Burr, 5 Matty Dawson, 7 Josh Drinkwater, 31 Matty Fleming, 13 Harrison Hansen, 9 Micky Higham (Captain), 21 Liam Hood, 23 Sam Hopkins, 34 Samisoni Langi, 18 Gregg McNally, 16 Antoni Maria, 33 Daniel Mortimer, 11 Cory Paterson, 20 Ben Reynolds, 35 Greg Richards, 12 Glenn Stewart, 15 Danny Tickle, 17 Atelea Vea.

Hull Kingston Rovers (from) 3 Thomas Minns, 5 Ryan Shaw, 7 Jamie Ellis, 8 Nick Scruton, 9 Shaun Lunt, 10 Chris Clarkson, 11 Maurice Blair, 12 James Greenwood, 13 Danny Addy, 19 George Lawler, 20 Matty Marsh, 21 Robbie Mulhern, 22 Andrew Heffernan, 32 Kieren Moss, 33 Ben Kavanagh, 36 Justin Carney, 37 Lee Jewitt, 38 Chris Atkin, 39 Mose Masoe.

When the two clubs met in the Qualifiers last season, Leigh took a giant step towards automatic promotion, coming from behind to beat the then Super League side on their own patch, 18-25.

Tries from Hopkins, Dixon, Dawson and Drinkwater sealing the win, with Ridyard not only kicking four from four, but also adding a drop goal for good measure.

This season however, the teams met in the earlier rounds of the Challenge Cup, Rovers this time running out 10-23 winners at Leigh sports village.

Can lightning strike twice?

The best way to find out is to actually be there, and the ticket office at Leigh will be open until 8pm tonight (Thursday) and you can also buy online.

If you cant be there, then the game is live on Sky sports Main Event.

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Salford Devils v Catalan Dragons preview

Press Conference,

Beware the team with a new coach…

After the Catalan Dragons parted company with head coach Laurent Frayssinous after the Dacia Magic Weekend defeat to Huddersfield Giants, 10-18, Salford coach Ian Watson will point to the defeat of Challenge cup holders Hull FC by St. Helens in front of their new head coach Justin Holbrook as a pointer as to what a change of leadership can do to a team.

Hardly anyone went to St James’ park on Saturday expecting Saints to beat FC, let alone beat them to nil, but that’s what makes sport so special, the unknown.

When Catalan appear at the AJ Bell stadium on Friday night, the Devils will want to right the 38-6 scoreline from April that brought to an end the Devils unbeaten run of six games.

Given that was the last time a Salford fan tasted defeat, club CEO Ian Blease would be hoping that the offer to season ticket holders to “Bring a mate for £10” will help boost the meagre (but loud) crowds the team are playing in front of.

Fans will also hope to catch a glimpse of new signing James Hasson, who arrived last week from Parramatta Eels.

As well as being an Irish international, Hasson made 40 appearances for Manly Sea-Eagles and was part of their squad that reached the NRL Grand Final in 2013.

Head Coach Ian Watson is confident that he can make a positive contribution to the Red Devils this season, he told the clubs website;

“James is a player that adds some real competitiveness to our squad. We’ve had some injuries to our middles with Adam Walne and George Griffin, and James is exactly the kind of player that can step into that role. His NRL experience with Manly and Parramatta will be invaluable.

James is a tough, no nonsense player who runs hard and direct lines but also has the ability to play a good offload game. His defence is first rate and he is a good fit for our style of play.

His attitude and desire to come on board with us has been superb, and I’m sure he will slot straight into the playing group over the coming weeks.” 

Man of the moment Ben Murdoch-Masila will be wanting to add to his growing reputation as one of the players of the season, and some peoples outside bet for the Steve Prescott “Man of Steel” award.

His 10 tries so far this campaign are part of the reason the club sit in second place as we get just over the 1/2 way point of the season.

Salford are not a one man side…

They have a real strength across the board, and a team spirit that is second to none in  my opinion.

It will be a close, tight affair, and I think, sadly, that Catalan might just nick this one as well…