Super League: Hull FC vs Huddersfield Giants and Castleford Tigers vs Warrington Wolves talking points
The opening round of the 2021 Super League season concludes on Sunday afternoon; watch Huddersfield vs Hull FC (12.30pm kick-off) and Castleford vs Warrington (2.45pm) live on Sky Sports Arena
Last Updated: 28/03/21 11:47am
We take a look at what's being said as Round 1 of the 2021 Super League season comes to a close on Sunday afternoon with Huddersfield Giants taking on Hull FC and Castleford Tigers facing Warrington Wolves…
Lawrence leading the way
Since making his debut for Huddersfield in August 2007, Michael Lawrence has emerged as a leader on the field for the Giants, but now the Jamaica international is doing so off the field too and not just as club captain at the John Smith's Stadium.
Lawrence, who spoke passionately to Sky Sports last year along with Ashton Golding and Jordan Turner about his experiences of racism in rugby league, joined the RFL's inclusion board last month.
Super League united behind the Black Lives Matter movement last year and is continuing in that vein in 2021 with a 13-pause before kick-off of each match to allow players to make their own statement against discrimination, although the 30-year-old loose forward knows there is more to be done.
"I feel a big responsibility to put across what's happening in the professional game," Lawrence said. "It's something I'm passionate about.
"There are definitely still some problems to overcome. You only have to go on social media to see it's alive and kicking in general in the country in many sports.
"Rugby league is pretty much inclusive and became even better over the last few years with the PDRL and the women's game is growing but more can be done, you can never rest on your laurels."
Lawrence determined to make an impact
Huddersfield forward Michael Lawrence is determined that the RFL's new inclusion board will have a positive impact on the game of rugby league.
On the pitch, Huddersfield get their new era under head coach Ian Watson underway against Hull FC in the first match of Sunday's double-header, with new signings Ricky Leutele, Luke Yates, Joe Greenwood, James Cunningham, Jack Cogger, Josh Jones and Jack Ashworth all possible debutants.
Hull finding the right balance
It is a new era for Hull FC too, with former Giants full-back Brett Hodgson taking over as head coach in the off-season as Lee Radford's permanent successor.
The Black and Whites reached the semi-finals of the play-offs under interim head coach Andy Last in 2020, losing to eventual Grand Final runners-up Wigan Warriors, and aside from the signing of Wests Tigers half-back Josh Reynolds and some departures it will be more or less the same squad Hodgson has to work with.
Hull's team again features a mix of overseas and domestic recruits aligned with a strong backbone of homegrown talent and Hull-born forward Brad Fash believes that is vital for any chance of success.
"I think that's important," Fash told Sky Sports. "As you've seen in recent years with the majority of the big teams who've done well, they've got a lot of homegrown players and I think that's a bit of a blueprint to go off.
Early insights serving McNamara well
Hull FC's Ben McNamara on what he learnt from his father, playing in Sydney Roosters' youth set-up and hopes for 2021.
"I think we've got a good team as a whole and I think we've got enough experience and youth kicking about in the team to be able to produce something.
"With everything that happened last year, and coronavirus and other things happening around the club, I thought we weren't far off the pace. We were one game off being there and judging from that we can only kick on and go further."
Reynolds is likely to make his debut against Huddersfield, but Jack Brown and Masi Matongo have joined long-term injury absentee Jamie Shaul on the sidelines.
Hull FC: Jake Connor, Bureta Faraimo, Carlos Tuimavave, Josh Griffin, Mahe Fonua, Josh Reynolds, Marc Sneyd, Scott Taylor, Danny Houghton, Chris Satae, Andre Savelio, Manu Ma'u, Ligi Sao, Jordan Johnstone, Joe Cator, Jordan Lane, Brad Fash, Ben McNamara, Adam Swift, Josh Bowden, Cameron Scott.
Huddersfield Giants: Jermaine McGillvary, Jake Wardle, Ricky Leutele, Darnell McIntosh, Lee Gaskell, Aidan Sezer, Luke Yates, Adam O'Brien, Kenny Edwards, Josh Jones, Matty English, Joe Greenwood, Jack Cogger, Chris McQueen, Jack Ashworth, James Cunningham, Oliver Wilson, Leroy Cudjoe, James Gavet, Oliver Russell, Owen Trout.
McShane out to right wrongs
Few people were more surprised to see Paul McShane crowned Man of Steel in 2020 than the man himself, despite him winning praise for his individual displays throughout the year.
The hooker aligns his own performances to that of the Castleford team and with the Tigers finishing outside the play-offs after sitting top of the table before the Super League season was suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Nevertheless, McShane was proud to be honoured with the award and is now looking ahead to the 2021 season, which sees the Tigers get things underway against Warrington.
"It was a strange one because I based my game on how we are as a team, and after lockdown it was pretty frustrating, we weren't getting the results," McShane said.
"I think it showed with how shocked I was for it to finish how it did in me getting Man of Steel.
"Everyone is desperate to get out there again. It feels like it has been the longest pre-season ever and everyone is chomping at the bit to right a few wrongs.
"But there is just a good feeling anyway throughout the whole pre-season and I think that's down to the depth we have."
Head coach Daryl Powell, who recently announced he will leave at the end of the season, is likely to hand debuts to Castleford's new signings Niall Evalds and Jordan Turner.
Inglis waits for Wolves debut
New signings Rob Butler and Robbie Mulhern are both included in Warrington's squad for the clash with Castleford, but one notable absentee is their big-name recruit Greg Inglis.
The Australian icon has come out of retirement to play for the Wolves in Super League, but is being given more time to get up to speed after not playing for nearly two years.
Appearing as a guest pundit on Sky Sports' coverage of the opening night of the 2021 season on Friday, Inglis revealed he is not likely to be in action for Warrington until the Round 3 clash with Hull FC at the earliest.
"Round 2 is probably a bit too early," Inglis told Sky Sports. "I landed here in January after two years of retirement, so it will possibly be Round 3 or 4.
Captain Jack steps up to lead Wolves
New Warrington skipper Jack Hughes on the attributes a captain needs and how the Wolves are shaping up for Super League.
"I'm getting the miles in my legs and getting back into that intense training day in, day out. To get back to that peak form, I said from day one I'm here to torture my body and that's what I'm going to do.
"I'm glad I'm over here, I'm glad I'm lacing the boots back on for Warrington and we can only hope for the best."
Castleford Tigers: Niall Evalds, Derrell Olpherts, Peter Mata'utia, Michael Shenton, Jake Trueman, Danny Richardson, Liam Watts, Paul McShane, Grant Millington, Oliver Holmes, Cheyse Blair, Adam Milner, Nathan Massey, George Griffin, Jacques O'Neill, Tyla Hepi, Jesse Sene-Lefao, Daniel Smith, Greg Eden, Jordan Turner, Gareth O'Brien.
Warrington Wolves: Matty Ashton, Blake Austin, Rob Butler, Josh Charnley, Daryl Clark, Jason Clark, Mike Cooper, Ben Currie, Chris Hill, Jack Hughes, Toby King, Tom Lineham, Jake Mamo, Robbie Mulhern, Joe Philbin, Stefan Ratchford, Ellis Robson, Josh Thewlis, Danny Walker, Gareth Widdop, Connor Wrench.