Pace in the pack key to Huddersfield Giants reaching elusive final

Sam Rapira.
Sam Rapira.
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LIKE any head coach worth his salt, Huddersfield Giants’ Paul Anderson is always ready to acknowledge when he has got things wrong.

He freely admits his side were a little “one-paced” in 2015, something he believes should be remedied in the new campaign which starts in just under four weeks’ time.

Him mentioning a prop – admittedly an international one – and a one-time front-row as part of the cure would not seem the most obvious solution.

You would think Anderson would be talking of the need for extra speed in the more traditional slots of the three-quarters.

However, it is by quickening up the pace in his pack that he hopes will help them finally fulfil their potential, having yet again fallen just short of a maiden Grand Final.

Capturing Sam Rapira, the rangy prop from New Zealand Warriors who won the 2008 World Cup with the Kiwis, brings that, as does the return of Larne Patrick after a season-long loan at Wigan Warriors.

A 28-year-old who was coveted by most of Super League when he first announced last season he wanted to move to Europe for 2016, Rapira will make his debut in the club’s opening friendly at Halifax tomorrow.

Anderson, a prop himself during his playing days, is excited by the prospect.

“What Sam can do is bring something different to us,” he said. “What he has got is he’s very, very dynamic. He’s real good leg speed, can get around the field really well and can generate a play of the ball with the way and speed he gets to the floor.

“He’s got some good variety in his carries and adds another string to our bow with regards to how we play.

“We are literally giants of men because of the size of our team but we’ve lacked a little bit in the past and been a little one-paced.

“We want to be more dynamic around our middle. With Larne Patrick coming back as well, he’s been very, very good.

“He can play prop and back-row but we’ve given him the No 13 jersey and he will play loose-forward this season.”

Rapira, who played more than 150 NRL games for the Warriors, will have to get up to speed quickly given prop Craig Huby will miss the first six weeks of the campaign with a broken wrist and experienced forward Brett Ferres has been sold to Leeds Rhinos.

Anderson added: “I think he had been neglected a little bit in the NRL but I have to give credit to our medical and conditioning staff for the things they have done with him here.

“He probably gets one or two aches and pains and back in the day he would never have trained but now he is training and has not missed a session since he’s been here from the end of November.

“He’s had a couple of days ill, which I can understand with the wet weather we’ve had, but other than that he’s been outstanding.

“He has a wealth of experience and, even for his age and that experience, he’s asked questions all the time. He’s desperate to learn.

“He’s here for a reason and obviously with the injuries we’ve got at the start of the year he’s going to be really important to us with that experience he has.”

For a variety of reasons, Rapira played just four NRL games last season so Anderson is glad to be playing three friendlies this year.

“We’ve been burnt in the past when we’ve only had two trials and then seen one cancelled,” he added. “It’s not been ideal so that’s why we’ve gone with three.

“With Sam, he’s played limited football over the last 12 months so we just want to throw him out there and given him a good 20 or 25 minutes.

“Then we’ll put him in some cotton wool and get him ready for the week after but we just want to get him some time under his belt and get him in the club colours.”

The pain of Huddersfield’s play-off semi-final at Wigan last October, when their dream of reaching Old Trafford was dashed by a woeful 32-8 loss, is still present but Anderson is adamant they will be better prepared than ever to bridge that final gap this time around.

“This time last year we were going into a whole competition nobody knew anything about with 23 rounds and then the Super 8s,” he said, his side finishing third, missing out on second after throwing away a winning position in their final Super 8s game against Leeds.

“We weren’t far away yet we were a million miles away – if that makes sense – with regards to being Grand Finalists.

“We got to that semi but were nowhere near where we needed to be in that game.

“We’ve talked a lot since about how we handle things if they don’t quite go right and I feel as a whole – obviously we’ve had some setbacks with injuries and other stuff – that we are a lot further down the line in our preparations than before at this stage.”