AUSTRALIAN FULL-BACK RECKONS SUPER LEAGUE SUCCESS WILL HINGE ON EARNING RIGHT TO WIN
■■Leeds forward Stevie Ward says playing in tomorrow’s World Club Challenge will help make up for the disappointment of missing the World Cup.
The 24-year-old second rower made a remarkable recovery from a dislocated shoulder to help the Rhinos beat Castleford in October’s Betfred Super League Grand Final.
But he was forced to undergo shoulder surgery within days of the Old Trafford decider which ruled him out of England’s trip Down Under.
Ward actually went to Australia for a holiday during his recuperation and admits England’s valiant display in pushing the Kangaroos right to the last whistle in the final whetted his appetite for his international debut.
“Watching the boys and seeing how close we came does make me want to be part of it in the future,” he said.
“Of course I was gutted about missing the World Cup but it’s a new season, it’s a new challenge and it’s really exciting to go over for the World Club Challenge, and within the space of a week too.”
Ward made his comeback in last Thursday’s 20-11 win over Hull KR. ■■France international Tony Gigot has signed a new contract with Catalans after having a two-year suspension overturned.
The 27-year-old full-back last week overturned a two-year ban imposed by the French Anti-Doping Agency for an “inappropriate exchange” with a testing officer in 2016.
The ban, initially reduced to three months on appeal, was reimposed last August, forcing Gigot to miss Catalans’ successful bid to salvage their place in the Betfred Super League as well as the 2017 World Cup. ■■Hull KR are expected to give a debut to back row forward Danny Tickle in their home meeting with Catalans Dragons tonight.
Tickle comes in for James Greenwood, who is ruled out with a head knock, while Liam Salter is set to replace Andrew Heffernan, who is also sidelined with concussion. JAKE MAMO is looking to build on his performance as Huddersfield Giants notched their first win of the Super League season against Warrington Wolves.
The Giants responded to their opening-day defeat at Hull FC with a 20-6 win at the John Smith’s Stadium against the Wolves, and the 23-year-old fullback is aiming to continue his improving form.
“On a personal level, I was much happier with the performance, no errors were definitely my focus,” said Mamo.
“On a team level we weren’t perfect, you’re never going to be perfect, but as a whole we made a lot fewer errors and gave a lot fewer penalties away.
“The defence was the most pleasing thing about the game.
“There were plenty of times that we had repeat sets but we dug deep.
“We weren’t perfect, there were a few line breaks but we scrambled and kept them to one try with the kick, which was good.”
The Giants next game is another home Super League outing against St Helens on Friday, February 23, and Mamo feels the early-season focus has to be building from solid defensive displays.
“I think our focus after the Hull game was on defence for the entire week and that’s where it really needs to be for us,” explained the former Newcastle Knights player.
“As a team we score tries just off random play and we have the individuals to be able to do that.
“The focus needed to be on the defence and then after that we can score some random tries and win some games.
“We worked hard for the whole game against Warrington, and we have St Helens next week, so we will be focusing on the defence and it’ll be a defencebased game, especially at the start of the season – it’s important.
“With the squad Saints have got they’re going to be a tough opposition throughout the whole year at the top.
“Blokes like Ben Barba coming off an NRL Grand Final win, that was a couple of years ago now, but still the quality player that he is and what he is delivering, accompanied with half of the other players they’ve got, they will be formidable.
“I think we’ll leave the gameplan up to the coaches, let them decide that! Strong defence and to score tries, that’s my gameplan for the team.”