WITH BOTH sides missing their regular stand-offs, it will be understandable if the attacking fluency of Hull FC and Hull KR is not at its best during today’s derby.
FC are without their former Great Britain No6 Leon Pryce and hosts Rovers, of course, still have no Terry Campese, the influential Australian who strained a hamstring two weeks ago on his long-awaited return from a knee reconstruction.
That said, their makeshift replacements have not been bad either.
Maurice Blair, a converted second-row boasting a teasing left boot, ran the show for Rovers as they picked up their first win of the season against Salford Red Devils on Sunday while their city rivals seem to have unearthed a potential answer to their conundrum, too.
Carlos Tuimavave has always classed himself as a half-back although Hull head coach Lee Radford brought him to Super League this year as a centre despite never having seen him play in that position. The Kiwi, who joined from Newcastle Knights, was impressive enough in the three-quarters early on but, after youngster Jordan Abdull failed to take his chance at No6 versus Widnes, he was moved to stand-off last week.
The rewards were instant; Tuimavave created two tries and scored another himself as he instantly slotted in to help defeat Wakefield Trinity 22-4 and end Hull’s worrying three-game losing run.
Pryce will be missing a while longer following minor knee surgery so does Tuimavave now want to force Radford’s hand and seek the creative role permanently?
“I guess it all depends how I go at centre,” said the 24-year-old.
“If I can be successful there, have a good year and Lee wants me to stay there, I’m willing to do so. If he wants me to fill in at stand-off when we get injures, I’m happy to do that as well.
“But I feel like I’ve done pretty well at centre so far and I’ve still got a lot to improve on having not played a lot there before.
“I have a lot more to offer at centre and I think I can make a name for myself in that position.
“At six, I found it a bit rusty. Sometimes I wasn’t in the right position for a call but I did feel comfortable. My lungs were hurting a bit more than at centre but that will come with game-time.
“I’ll try and do a job for the boys until Leon is back.”
Hull, who have won three of their six games so far, will require Marc Sneyd, the former Castleford half-back, to take on a more senior role in the interim, especially at KC Lightstream Stadium today where his kicking will need to be spot on to help get on top of Rovers.
“Marc’s the dominant half out of the both of us,” admitted Tuimavave, who is a more dangerous runner and offloader.
“He gets the boys around and I just get in off the back of that and help out where I can.
“I can focus on my running game, taking chances down the short sides and things like that.
“We worked well together last week and hopefully we can do that again versus Rovers.
“We do need to be more clinical but we’ve got spark all over the field and guys that can make things happen out of nothing.
“If we keep a healthy squad we’re heading in the right direction.”
The Samoa international is relishing his first fully competitive taste of the famous derby.
He scored two tries as FC embarrassed their rivals 60-20 at the KC Stadium during the pre-season friendly, a result that hinted at the early year problems Rovers would face under Chris Chester before he was replaced as head coach by James Webster.
“The boys have been talking it up all week,” added the former New Zealand Warrior.
“This is my first actual competition game as a derby but the last game was pretty intense.
“Both crowds got stuck behind both teams and I can’t imagine what we’ll get this week. I’m definitely looking forward to it. I can’t wait.”
Hull will be boosted by the return of former Melbourne Storm winger Mahe Fonua, an NRL off-season recruit like Tuimavave, who injured his knee in the opening night win over Salford.
He could slot in at centre with youngster Jack Logan left out and Tuimavave admitted: “It’s a massive boost. He’s got a lot of experience and his biggest asset to us is his talk and leadership especially out on the edge where we’ve been struggling a bit.
“He’s also like our third prop on the wing! He comes in and makes as many carries as props and as many yards. Whatever happens, we just need to start stringing some wins together now.
“Wakefield was a really important win for us. The whole week we focused on our defence and our honesty on both sides of the ruck. That’s what’s going to win you games – defence. There’s no point scoring heaps of points if you can’t defend.”