YOU can always rely on Hull FC’s gregarious head coach Lee Radford for a witty aside or two.
“It’s a fair old trek for an all-inclusive holiday that one,” was his response when asked about prop Scott Taylor’s exclusion from today’s England squad to face Samoa in Sydney.
The Black and Whites front-row, who made his international debut in last year’s Four Nations, was one of three players to miss the cut after flying out with the 20-man squad last Saturday.
Perhaps more bizarrely, St Helens’ uncapped Alex Walmsley – clearly Super League’s form prop – was one of the others.
Radford said: “Wayne (Bennett) is paid to pick the side and we’ll see what happens at the weekend.
“I’m disappointed for Scott from a personal point of view because I know he would have done his country proud if he had been selected.”
He is not, though, and it, of course, means he is not in the Hull side either that heads to Widnes Vikings tomorrow.
Fortunately for Radford, he is not short of props; Liam Watts returns after his latest ban and Josh Bowden is also back in the 19-man squad after injury.
Perhaps more crucially for Hull, hooker Danny Houghton is also set to feature as well, the ‘Man of Steel’ who has missed the last six games with a niggling calf strain.
That said, Radford hoped he would be fit last week – and the week before.
He has fully trained and done extras at the end of those sessions so he’ll be good to goHull FC coach Lee Radford on the returning Danny Houghton
“He has fully trained and done extras at the end of those sessions so he’ll be good to go,” said the coach, ahead of today’s final practice run.
“He’s a very frustrating injured player. I think when the scan results come through and say four to six weeks you always optimistically aim for four weeks. That’s probably what we and Danny have done but, obviously, there has been a little bit more precaution taken.
“We can’t afford a setback with him and don’t want a setback with him. That’s why we went about it the way we did.”
Hull sat second heading into this round of fixtures, having won eight of their opening dozen games.
Depleted Widnes, in contrast, are marooned at the foot of the table after a disastrous start that has proffered only a couple of wins.
“They haven’t picked up too many results and it’s well documented the amount of injuries they have,” added Radford.
“For me, this week is about us and how we turn up. We must be professional and go about our business and not worry about Widnes’s injury woes.
“There is every chance the opposition will put in a performance but, ultimately, this week is about the manner in which we turn up to play.
“Playing on their i-pitch is not something new either so they are not going to catch you by surprise any more.
“And we have been on a 4G pitch at St Mary’s School this week as well.”
Furthermore, the Challenge Cup holders, who begin the defence of that trophy when they host Catalans Dragons on Friday, are full of confidence following an impressive 34-10 win over Warrington and are now seeking a fourth straight victory.
Radford recalled: “It was a really tidy performance and it needed to be because I think they showed they are a quality side as well.
“The manner of the victory was the most pleasing thing,” he added.
It did come at a cost, however, with second-row Sika Manu banned for two games following a ‘chicken wing’ tackle that also saw him sin-binned.
Houghton will lead the side in the continuing absence of Gareth Ellis. Second rower Sika Manu starts a four-match ban.
Widnes hope to have hooker Aaron Heremaia back from a six-match absence with a torn quad, while full-back Rhys Hanbury and centre Chris Bridge also return from injury.