RugbyL: Saints in perfect order for heavy fixture list

Former Australia forward Anthony Laffranchi insists St Helens are peaking at just the right time as the Super League enters a hectic period.

Coach Nathan Brown's Saints currently sit level second with three others in the Super League table, one point behind early leaders and surprise packages Huddersfield Giants.

Next up on Friday is a trip to arch-rivals Wigan Warriors, one of the four teams level second, and they back that up by welcoming Castleford Tigers just three days later on Monday.

Laffranchi was rested for Saints' 14-10 win against Salford City Reds last time out, his side's fifth in their last six outings.

But the 32-year-old former Australian international insists he is itching to get back into the swing of things against Wigan, who dismantled Widnes 62-4 last time out to serve notice of their intent.

"These are the sort of games that I came across from Australia for," he said.

"Going to Wigan is one of the toughest trips in Super League but we are playing well and excited about the challenge.

"After last season it's nice to be a bit more stable under Browny, we knew it would come good after a sticky start and we are playing well now.

"Wigan and this Easter period in general is an acid test for us to show we deserve to be where we are in the table, we want to stay up there for when the big games come around at the end of the season."

But, while Laffranchi is positive about the Easter period, Hull KR head coach Craig Sandercock has pulled no punches in his assessment of the fixture pile-up.

His side have the huge derby against Hull FC on Friday followed by the visit of Wigan three days later, a challenge that the former Newcastle Knights assistant feels is a step too far.

"I don't agree with it at all," said Sandercock. "My most important job as a coach is to try and look after my players the best I can.

"We ban the shoulder charge because we're concerned about player welfare but we let our boys play the biggest derby of the season and then back it up two days later.

"I think it's not a great idea. The derby takes a big emotional and physical toll on your team and to have to back up on Monday against Wigan, one of the best sides in the competition, is a big ask."

Elsewhere Hull FC will be without Daniel Holdsworth for the derby game as the former Canterbury half-back continues his recovery from concussion.

And head coach Peter Gentle insists he and the medical staff will not be rushing the 28-year-old back into action.

"It's a head injury and we have got to be very careful what we do with it and rest is the only solution," he said.

"It may be two or three weeks but it's something we can't put a time on.

"We're dealing with someone's health here and as much as you can see how much we miss him, I'm not going to jeopardise someone's health for the sake of two points."


Thursday: Leeds Rhinos v Bradford Bulls, London Broncos v Catalan Dragons

Friday: Wigan Warriors v St Helens, Hull FC v Hull KR, Salford City Reds v Huddersfield Giants, Widnes Vikings v Warrington Wolves, Castleford Tigers v Wakefield Wildcats

Monday: Bradford Bulls v Salford City Reds, Huddersfield Giants v Widnes Vikings, Hull KR v Wigan Warriors, St Helens v Castleford Tigers, Warrington Wolves v London Broncos, Wakefield Wildcats v Hull FC, Catalan Dragons v Leeds Rhinos