Wakefield Trinity urged to deliver champion display

They are down to their last 17 available players but Wakefield Trinity head coach Chris Chester still believes his depleted side have every chance of defeating Super League champions St Helens tonight.

Wakefield Trinity boss Daryl Powell (SWPIX)

He has good reason for such confidence; Trinity beat Wigan Warriors in their last outing and have won four of their last five games at Belle Vue.

Granted, there have been issues in their build-up but that is currently commonplace everywhere given the pandemic.

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Wakefield’s last game against Salford Red Devils was called off due to a Covid outbreak in the opposition ranks and they had to send one of their own players home yesterday morning due to track and trace.

That came after the West Yorkshire club also had to stand down another player following a positive test and, allied to 10 injuries, it is far from ideal.

Chester insisted: “We have had a disrupted week at training but it’s been really good in terms of quality. Losing a player this morning has been a huge disruption but we have 17 guys out there with points to prove and some guys off contract wanting to earn a new deal, too. It’s a great opportunity for the 17 that takes to the field. It’s a very, very competitive side and I’m really looking forward to Friday night.

“It’s a great time to play Saints; our home form has been really good, teams never like coming here and we always have real close games here with them.

“They’ve given us that respect and come with their strongest team so we’re looking forward to the challenge.”

St Helens, who sit second having won nine of 11 games, defeated Wigan Warriors 24-6 on Sunday but have the Betfred Challenge Cup final against Castleford Tigers looming next Saturday.

Will they be thinking about Wembley?

“I hope so!” smiled Chester.

“But they are a professional outfit and I expect them to come with the attitude they want to win the game – but are coming up against a really competitive side.”

Chester, though, will take some positives from when they played the back-to-back champions in April. Admittedly, Wakefield eventually lost 34-6 that day but they had kept Saints scoreless in the first period with the game locked at 0-0 at half-time.

“We’ll take that defensive mindset and remember how difficult we made it for St Helens,” he added.

“You could see the pivots arguing between themselves coming off at half-time and we can take a lot from that.

“We lost Jacob Miller to an injury in the first half that day as well. But we’re a totally different team now – and hoping for a different result.”

On the Covid situation, Chester accepted there was some “lingering” around but re-enforced the club’s desire to get games on as they did last year.

“The (Under) 19s have had some issues as well but we can fulfil our fixtures,” he said.

“We’re down to 17 tomorrow. We named 19 but there’s two guys in there, one who’s injured and one who’s had to be stood down.

“It’s really tough at the minute but everyone’s going through it.

“Fingers crossed we’ve nipped it in the bud.”

Chester has reported relatively positive news on England winger Tom Johnstone’s knee injury.

“He went for an op’ on Tuesday and there were three (potential) scenarios,” he explained.

“Fortunately for us it’s the best case scenario. It’s a clean-out at the end of the day; he’s had some cartilage shaved and we are looking at three to four weeks.”

Meanwhile, the Rugby Football League have relaxed some rules on player movement in Super League to recognise the ongoing challenges presented by Covid.

Following a meeting between clubs last week, they will now be given more flexibility to make changes to squads to allow them to tackle issues around availability caused by the pandemic.

The Covid protocols, including the requirement for seven or more players to be unavailable either through a positive test or as close contacts before a game can be postponed, will not change.

However, the minimum length a player can be loaned to a Super League club – already reduced from 28 days to 14 – will be removed, for players eligible to play in the academy or with a salary cap value of less than £40,000.

Clubs will also be able to loan players who meet that criteria until the end of the season rather than the signing deadline of August 6 and the maximum of five loan players per club is removed.

Furthermore, to support clubs promoting academy players to seek to ensure matches are played, the minimum salary for a Super League player of £15,000 will be suspended for the remainder of the season, although only until such players have made four senior appearances.