Saints v Leeds preview

Saints coach Keiron Cunningham
Saints coach Keiron Cunningham
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The days of one club monopolising Super League are over, St Helens’ head coach Keiron Cunningham insisted yesterday.

Speaking on the eve of his club’s blockbusting opening fixture of the new season against Leeds Rhinos at the Totally Wicked Stadium, the Saints’ supremo forecast “the best competition for a long time”.

He said: “It is now a cut throat business and team domination is a thing of the past in my view.

“Every club is in the same pot for the same player and expectations are high wherever you look.”

A far cry from earlier in the Millennium when Saints, Bradford Bulls and Leeds Rhinos all had spells as the masters of their sport.

Cunninghan went on: “It is a massive year for Rugby League with the World Cup Down Under towards the end of 2017and also a great honour for us, as a club, to stage the first match of what will be an exciting period.”

The Saints’ supremo is keeping his cards close to his chest on who he slot into the key half back positions but four of the main contenders - Theo Fages, Danny Richardson, Tommy Lee and skipper Jon Wilkin - are included in the initial 19-man squad named on Tuesday.

Squad:

1. Jonny Lomax, 2. Tommy Makinson, 3. Ryan Morgan, 4. Mark Percival, 5. Adam Swift, 6. Theo Fages, 8. Alex Walmsley, 9. James Roby, 10. Kyle Amor, 11. Joe Greenwood, 12. Jon Wilkin, 14. Luke Douglas, 15. Adam Walker, 16. Luke Thompson, 17. Tommy Lee, 18. Dominique Peyroux, 20. Morgan Knowles, 23. Jack Ashworth, 24. Danny Richardson.

Brian McDermott will select his Leeds side from:

1. Ashton Golding, 2. Tom Briscoe, 3. Kallum Watkins, 4. Joel Moon, 5. Ryan Hall, 6. Danny McGuire, 7. Rob Burrow, 9. Matt Parcell, 10. Adam Cuthbertson, 11. Jamie Jones-Buchanan, 12. Carl Ablett, 13. Stevie Ward, 14. Liam Sutcliffe, 16. Brad Singleton, 17. Mitch Garbutt, 18. Jimmy Keinhorst, 20. Anthony Mullally, 23. Jack Ormondroyd, 24. Jordan Baldwinson.

Thursday’s game kicks-off at 8pm and is expected to attract a five-figure crowd despite being screened by Sky TV.

The referee will be Phil Bentham.