Hull FC v St Helens: Lee Radford expecting Saints response as Justin Holbrook arrives

St Helens's Kyle Amor & Hull FC's Fetuli Talanoa with the Betfred Super League trophy ahead of their Magic Weekend game.
St Helens's Kyle Amor & Hull FC's Fetuli Talanoa with the Betfred Super League trophy ahead of their Magic Weekend game.
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THE regular phone call between Lee Radford and Sean Long did not occur this week.

Hull FC head coach Radford is good friends with the former Great Britain scrum-half who – after being playing rivals for much of their Super League careers – were Black and Whites team-mates in 2010 and 2011.

Long, of course, is now back at St Helens where the erstwhile scrum-half enjoyed so much success before retiring and is now assistant coach.

However, ahead of today’s Magic Weekend fixture with Hull, Saints are in a real predicament.

Another club legend Keiron Cunningham was sacked as head coach recently meaning Long and Jamahl Lolesi have been in temporary charge but results have not improved with last Saturday’s unedifying 53-10 Challenge Cup defeat at Castleford a real low.

New coach Justin Holbrook, the Australian who was Sydney Roosters assistant, is now in the UK and will oversee this afternoon’s game in Newcastle before taking full control.

In-form Hull are seeking a sixth straight win but Radford told The Yorkshire Post: “I’ve been in this situation before as a player where you don’t know much about the bloke coming in to the job.

“You don’t know if he knows what you are about so you want to put your best foot forward.

“I’m sure those Saints players will be no different on Saturday. He’s going to be sat in the stands for the first time at Magic so they’ll be wanting to impress.

“Longy’s in the same position really.

“He’ll be wanting to show him what he can do, too.

“I do normally speak to him still once a week but not in the week when we play each other normally.

“He’s been put up with a couple of others to try and look after things until the new guy comes in.

“Yes, they ended up on the end of a rout at Castleford last week but they’ll all be excited about this game with us and getting going again.

“We’re very much looking at ourselves, though, and building on the performances we’ve been delivering.”

There is no doubt Hull are quietly going about their business this season; Castleford are gaining all the limelight at the top but FC only trail them by a solitary point and, therefore, could easily emerge as the new leaders come the end of this 11th Magic Weekend.

Furthermore, the East Yorkshire club began the defence of their Challenge Cup with a ruthless 62-0 destruction of Catalans Dragons last week.

“Results have been good and with that game, plus the second half at Widnes, the actual performances have been outstanding, too,” added Radford, Hull having overcome a 22-4 interval deficit to win 33-22 at Widnes.

“We’re looking to continue that in Newcastle. We’re going in with some form but it’s a funny weekend this; Magic always has a ‘big-game’ feel about it even though it is only for two points.

“I think you find everyone putting their hand up to play when maybe they’re busted and should be off for another week.

“You can understand it, though, because of the surroundings – the chance to play in front of maybe 40,000 people is not something you get to do every week during the normal competition.

“It’s great and I have always loved the concept and I’ve loved it at Newcastle since it’s been there.

“We’ve had a good record at Magic recently although it’s going to be a little different now not playing (Hull Kingston) Rovers.

“It’s been about six years since that last happened. I think we played Harlequins in Edinburgh.”

Hull are still without captain Gareth Ellis (sternum) while winger Mahe Fonua and Jake Connor have dropped out with injuries after last week.

They do have Fetuli Talanoa and Carlos Tuimavave back, though, to offset their losses.

“We’ve lost a few again but it seems to be in two in, two out at the moment,” said Radford.

“We’ll take that, though, as there are other teams far worse off than us. A lot of clubs have rung this week asking for loans players. We aren’t even at this ‘second’ Easter period yet (clubs play next Friday and the following Bank Holiday Monday).

“If they are ringing for players now, I’m sure my phone is going to be red-hot after the second double-headers. We are in a good spot but it could quite easily become a lot worse.”

Saints have named an unchanged 19-man squad with former Hull hooker Tommy Lee looking to force his way back into the matchday side.

Full-back Tommy Makinson, who made his Saints debut in 2011, is set for his 150th club appearance.