Jake Connor omitted from Huddersfield Giants side to face Hull KR as Ian Watson addresses loan talk

Huddersfield Giants boss Ian Watson has refused to rule out a loan move for Jake Connor after confirming the playmaker will not feature at Hull KR on Friday night.

The former England international was left out of Huddersfield's recent game against Leigh Leopards and only made the bench on his return in the win over Hull FC.

Connor, who missed only one match prior to the Challenge Cup semi-final defeat to Warrington Wolves, has been linked with a short-term move away from the John Smith's Stadium, with Love Rugby League reporting that Super League clubs had been alerted about his availability.

"I don't want to speculate on Jake," said Watson.

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"Jake has not been in our starting team. He's a high-quality player and is going to want to play games.

"He's here at the moment. He's in the squad and has been good in training and throughout the week.

"We'll deal with that. At some point, he probably is going to have a little look if he's not playing. He's a player who wants to play."

Connor rejoined Huddersfield from Hull at the end of 2022 to great fanfare but has struggled to produce his best form after an injury-hit start to his second spell at the club.

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Jake Connor finds himself out of the Huddersfield team. (Photo: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com)Jake Connor finds himself out of the Huddersfield team. (Photo: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com)
Jake Connor finds himself out of the Huddersfield team. (Photo: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com)

The 29-year-old, who is only halfway through a three-year deal, remains part of Watson's long-term plans.

"He is part of our squad and is contracted here," said Watson. "There is nothing different from us on that.

“Sometimes players have successful periods and sometimes they have down periods where they are in and out of the team but it's rugby life.

"Rugby is a massive rollercoaster and nobody is exempt from that."

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Matty English is poised to make his Castleford debut against Wigan. (Photo: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com)Matty English is poised to make his Castleford debut against Wigan. (Photo: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com)
Matty English is poised to make his Castleford debut against Wigan. (Photo: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com)

Asked whether Connor would play against Hull KR, Watson replied: "No, he won’t tomorrow."

Connor's temperament has been questioned throughout his career but Watson stressed that the Halifax native had taken his omission on the chin.

"Overall he has been good," said Watson, who will field Adam Clune and Oliver Russell in the halves at Craven Park. "I can't say he's been anything else. He's been fine.

"Is he happy that he’s not playing? No he's not because he wants to play, but it's the game."

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Damien Cook is no longer on Huddersfield's radar. (Photo: Hannah Peters/Getty Images)Damien Cook is no longer on Huddersfield's radar. (Photo: Hannah Peters/Getty Images)
Damien Cook is no longer on Huddersfield's radar. (Photo: Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Talk of a loan departure for Connor has coincided with Matty English's move to Castleford Tigers on a short-term deal.

English, who has spent his entire career to date with the Giants, is poised to make his Castleford debut against Wigan Warriors on Friday night after losing his place in Watson's side.

Watson has insisted that the two situations are completely separate amid suggestions of a shake-up at the John Smith's Stadium.

"Nothing has gone on behind the scenes," said Watson.

"We've spoken with Matty about a couple of things that we want him to do a little bit better on but it wasn't wholly about performance; it was more to do with match fitness as a middle and us not wanting him to lose that.

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"I don't think anything could go wrong with someone like Matty. He's a champion bloke.

The Giants beat Hull FC last time out. (Photo: Olly Hassell/SWpix.com)The Giants beat Hull FC last time out. (Photo: Olly Hassell/SWpix.com)
The Giants beat Hull FC last time out. (Photo: Olly Hassell/SWpix.com)

"He's excited to challenge himself. It'll be good for him because he'll get to see a different environment.

"I hope he goes really, really well because he'll come back here to play for us. He's not been far from it at all."

With key pair Luke Yates and Esan Marsters on their way out of the club, Huddersfield are in the market for reinforcements for 2025 and beyond.

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The Giants have already completed a deal for England prop Tom Burgess and enquired about the possibility of luring his South Sydney Rabbitohs team-mate Damien Cook to Super League.

However, the New South Wales hooker is set to stay in the NRL.

"He was a player we were interested in but I don't think he's got any appetite to come over to Super League right now," said Watson.

"Would we have been interested? One hundred per cent we would have been interested. Who wouldn't have been interested in him? But it's not happening."

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On the field, Huddersfield are aiming to close the four-point gap to the play-off positions before another two-week break at the end of the month.

After negotiating trips to Hull KR and Catalans Dragons, the Giants visit Warrington and Leigh in early July.

While Watson accepts that it could be a season-defining period for his eighth-placed side, he has predicted plenty of twists and turns in the second half of the campaign.

"We've got two tough weeks and a bit of a break before going again straight away," he said.

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"It could work out real well. It's one of those defining moments in a season but I still don't think it will be clear until later on in the year.

"You look at the last lot of years and the top four always end up breaking away but it's usually very tight behind that.

"The competition is a lot tighter than it's ever been before. Most of the teams are pretty neck and neck."

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