Super League's Clash of the Coaches: Thursday's talking points and team news
Watch Thursday's Super League matches as Huddersfield Giants face Salford Red Devils (5.30pm) and Hull FC take on Leeds Rhinos (7.45pm) live on Sky Sports Mix and Main Event
Last Updated: 08/10/20 10:19pm
The up-and-comers of Ian Watson and Luke Robinson clash when Huddersfield Giants tackle Salford Red Devils in Super League on Thursday, while Andy Last faces ex-Hull FC boss Richard Agar when they play Leeds Rhinos...
Huddersfield vs Salford: The up-and-comers
Thursday's first match sees two of the up-and-coming head coaches in Super League careers going up against each other when the Giants take on the Red Devils.
Ian Watson leads Salford into the match on the back of having secured a first Challenge Cup final appearance for 51 years, with last Saturday's 24-22 win over Warrington Wolves coming just over a year since they booked their maiden Super League Grand Final appearance.
There is unlikely to be a return to Old Trafford this year for the Red Devils as well, but their form has been steadily improving since the start of September and they go into this clash with Huddersfield on the back of four straight wins in all competitions.
The 28-22 win over Hull FC has been their biggest margin of victory in those and it took a late converted try from Joey Lussick to seal the win over the Wolves in Cup semi-finals, but Watson is pleased his side are showing the strength of character to come through these close-fought contests.
"Over the last four weeks we've been winning that way anyway, and we've been comfortable in those games and those arm-wrestles and coming through it," Watson said.
"I was really confident that we could come through, we just needed to get out fair share of field position.
"The boys have got a belief they're not going to get beaten at the moment. They're doing all of the little things that matter, they're working hard for each other and that's ultimately getting them the wins."
Watson's opposite number on Thursday evening is Luke Robinson, who is unbeaten in his first three matches as acting head coach of Huddersfield following the sudden departure of Simon Woolford.
The 36-year-old former Giants half-back, who got his first coaching role 15 years ago with his amateur club Siddal, has long been talked about as a potential Super League head coach and is so far doing no harm to his prospects of earning the job on a full-time basis.
Robinson is boosted by the return of stand-off Lee Gaskell after a two-month injury lay-off and he is set to return to the halves alongside the talismanic Aiden Sezer.
They are likely to be backed up by Olly Russell on the interchange bench and Robinson is impressed with how one of his former charges from the Giants youth set-up has been performing recently.
"Olly Russell was my captain in the under-19s and he's somebody I've got a lot of faith in," Robinson said. "If you give him the reins of the team, he can really guide them around the field.
"He's got a lovely kicking game, he's got an old head on young shoulders and I thought he guided us around the field really well when he came on."
Salford, meanwhile, are without experienced scrum-half Kevin Brown. However, Luke Yates returns after missing the Challenge Cup semi-final due to a ban with Ryan Lannon, Chris Atkin, Jack Ormondroyd and loan player Oliver Ashall-Bott back in the 21-man squad as well.
Hull FC vs Leeds: The apprentice against the master
Having originally been set for a bye week, Hull FC find themselves called up from standby at short notice due to Castleford Tigers being left shorthanded by positive coronavirus tests.
That means Black and Whites interim head coach Andy Last finds himself up against Richard Agar, the man he served as assistant to during Agar's time in charge at the KCOM Stadium.
Last's men go into this match on the back of a 32-28 win over Castleford last week which kept their slim hopes of making the play-offs alive, with the coach revealing the motivational tool he used to help his side in the build-up.
"During the week, I pulled out an old article written by Phil Gould from 2007 and it referred to the [Brisbane] Broncos who had just won the 2006 [NRL] Grand Final, but started that next season poorly," Last said.
"They had to find their 'grit' again by hanging in there when you're under pressure and I think that really struck a cord with the boys.
"It was an epic encounter with two busted teams desperate for a result without plenty of their best players unavailable to them."
Things could hardly be going better for Leeds boss Agar, though, who is fresh from guiding them to a first Challenge Cup final appearance since the Rhinos last lifted the trophy in 2015 following last Saturday's 26-12 win over Wigan Warriors in the semis.
The club are fighting it out for a place in the top four as well and Agar's time in charge, having initially been thrust into the role on a temporary basis following David Furner's departure last year, has led to a revival in Leeds' fortunes.
It is the 48-year-old's first head coaching role at club level since leaving Wakefield Trinity in 2014, having served on Warrington's staff and then originally joined the Rhinos in a player and coach development role in the intervening years.
"I'm proud of the spirit we've developed as a team, challenging the benchmark teams time after time - and Leeds should do," Agar said.
"In the next part of our progression that's what we've got to do, but I'm really proud of the spirit and the good guys who exist within this team."
Agar recalls Bodene Thompson to his squad for the clash with Castleford after the forward was cup-tied for the weekend's match against Wigan. Jack Walker, Adam Cuthbertson, Alex Sutcliffe and Luke Briscoe are also included in his 21-man squad.