England claimed the Baskerville Shield with last week’s impressive second half showing against New Zealand to take an unassailable 2-0 lead into the final Test at Elland Road on Sunday. Tommy Makinson’s late try to complete his hat-trick sealed the win after yet another physical contest.
England are set to kick-off a three-match series against New Zealand this week and will face the Kiwis with a handful of players that ply their trade in the NRL. With that number set to increase further next season with John Bateman, Ryan Hall and Ryan Sutton set to head Down Under, TSZ takes a look at how the NRL-based Englishmen have got on this past season.
After a gruelling season that has seen both teams take part in 31 matches in the league alone, Wigan and Warrington have earned the right to contest the 2018 Super League Grand Final. Wigan head into the game as slight favourites but Warrington upset the odds last week and will be looking to do the same here.
Wigan welcome Castleford to the DW Stadium which has been a fortress for the Warriors this season. They have only lost one game on home soil all year which demonstrates the task Castleford face, especially with Wigan wanting to send departing head coach Shaun Wane out on a high in his final home game.
St Helens host Warrington in the first Super League play-off with league leaders Saints heading into the game on the back of four successive wins. They have started to produce some much better displays after a slight dip in form and once again look to be the team to beat.
Nobody associated with Catalans Dragons will ever forget 2018 as they made history by lifting the Challenge Cup at Wembley in August. Their attentions will soon turn to next season as they look set for an assault on Super League with some big arrivals, led by Sam Tomkins, set to join the French outfit.
Since 1999, Sydney Roosters and Melbourne Storm have appeared in 14 Grand Finals between them but the two powerhouses have managed to avoid each other until now in what is one of the most eagerly anticipated NRL Grand Finals of all time.
Wigan can look forward to hosting Castleford in a semi-final contest next week but first they face a Hull side heading to the DW Stadium on an awful run of form. The Cherry and Whites have only lost one game on home soil all season and will fancy their chances of maintaining that record here.
St Helens showed some of their early-season form as they dispatched Warrington last week and will be hoping to improve on their three-match winning run here as they host Castleford. Both of these will compete in next week’s semi-finals against different opposition and have opted to rest players as a result.
Warrington head to Wakefield still licking their wounds from last week’s defeat against league leaders St Helens, the side they will travel to in next week’s semi-final. They were hampered by injuries to key men during that game and must now face Wakefield without their first-choice halves.
Hull and Catalans come head-to-head with both teams in desperate need of a win. The home side need that win more having lost their last nine whilst the Dragons have lost six in a row in the league. It’s been a season to forget for Hull and they will want to break their losing sequence before it is out.
St Helens finally secured the League Leaders’ Shield last week but won’t have been celebrating too much with the bigger prize of the Grand Final still to play for. Saints will host either their opponents in this game, Warrington, or Castleford in the semi-final.
Castleford look set to miss out on a home semi-final but have continued to keep the pressure on Wigan with four straight wins. They have looked impressive recently and will want to keep that run of form going as they host local rivals Wakefield.
Wigan can clinch second place with a win here with all eyes likely to be on the Warriors as they continue to build towards the Grand Final. They are hitting form at just the right time and have won their last six matches as they shape as key contenders to lift the Super League crown.