Toulouse Olympique won’t be easy pickings for any one in Super League, says Huddersfield Giants’ Jake Wardle

AT first glance, Huddersfield Giants’ emphatic 42-14 win at Toulouse Olympique suggests Betfred Super League clubs could gain some easy pickings when they head over to the south of France this year.

Huddersfield's Jake Wardle and Toulouse's Guy Armitage challenge for the ball in the air. (Picture: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com)
Huddersfield's Jake Wardle and Toulouse's Guy Armitage challenge for the ball in the air. (Picture: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com)

However, Jake Wardle, who scored two tries in Huddersfield’s opening day success, has warned others not to take the competition’s newcomers lightly.

Granted, the young centre played his part in ensuring Toulouse’s Super League debut fell flat, but he saw enough to believe they could cause opponents issues as the campaign progresses.

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On an historic night for Sylvain Houles’ side, Toulouse surged into an early 10-0 lead after tries from Matty Russell and Ilias Bergal before the West Yorkshire club eventually wrestled control away from them.

Speaking to The Yorkshire Post, Wardle conceded: “To be honest, if any team goes over there just thinking they’re going to win they might be in for a surprise.

“They came out with a lot of energy for that first 20 minutes.

“They caught us by surprise. I admit that. If anyone goes there thinking they will win they could be in for an upset.”

Life is always initially difficult for the club that is promoted from the Championship but Toulouse’s position is even more invidious given they are without their two chief playmakers.

Huddersfield's Jake Wardle is tackled by Toulouse's Ilias Bergal. (Picture: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com)

Influential stand-off and captain Johnathan Ford departed on the eve of the campaign due to personal reasons believed to stem around requirements for all players in France to be double-vaccinated.

And the future of Australian full-back Mark Kheirallah – like Ford, a mainstay of Toulouse for the last decade – also remains shrouded in doubt due to ongoing issues between player and club. Ideally, then, Houles needs to strengthen his squad in the next few weeks to make sure they can be competitive.

Wardle enjoyed the trip as Huddersfield – who host Hull KR on Saturday – took part in the French club’s first Super League contest. The 23-year-old: “It was a good experience.

“There weren’t many travelling fans so it was quite hostile just being Toulouse supporters in there.

Toulouse's head coach Sylvain Houles (Picture: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com)

“We did our Captain’s Run here on Thursday, flew out Friday, played Saturday and returned Sunday so it was similar to when we go to Perpignan to play Catalans.

“Mainly due to the Covid issue, we stuck in the hotel quite a bit so we didn’t really get to see too much of a sense of what was going on around Toulouse.

“But when we got to the stadium there was a good atmosphere around there and I do think they’ll be a good addition to Super League.”

A crowd of 5,238 was perhaps slightly disappointing but France were playing in the Six Nations at the same time and, of course, it is still difficult for English fans to travel.

Ian Watson’s Huddersfield, though, were simply glad to get up and running quickly after a difficult 2021.

Wardle said their “professionalism” was the most pleasing aspect of their performance.

“At 10-0 down we could have easily just rolled over and let them run away with it,” said the Yorkshireman.

“But the fact we got stuck in and managed to turn it around, that is the pleasing thing.

“We didn’t concede again until the last play of the game and that was a real positive.”

Wardle scored his first brace since doing so on his debut in 2018 and, especially after his classy second, quickly had people talking about him being a potential starter for England at the World Cup this year.

The uncapped three-quarter insisted: “To be honest, I’m not thinking about that. I just want to play as well as I can every week and then hopefully that opportunity might come.

“But I’m not going to put pressure on myself. If it happens, great. If not, I won’t stress about it.

“It was important to get off to a winning start and hopefully it will put us in good stead for the rest of the year.

“It’s always good to get over for a try and hopefully there’ll be a few more. Hull KR will be tough – they throw the ball around – but we’re looking forward to that.”