Sky Live: Warrington Wolves vs Catalans Dragons preview and team news
Third-placed Warrington host leaders Catalans in Thursday's live Betfred Super League match; watch one of the opening matches of Rivals Round on Sky Sports Arena from 7pm (kick-off 7.45pm)
By Sky Sports Rugby League
Last Updated: 19/08/21 5:33pm
We look at what is being said and team news as Super League's Rivals Round kicks off with Warrington Wolves hosting Catalans Dragons on Thursday evening...
Clark ready for battle of the hookers
The Wolves against the Dragons may not be a rivalry in the traditional sense, but there has been something simmering away between the two clubs in recent years.
There have been some physical battles between them, perhaps most notably the controversial clash in August 2019 in Perpignan, while it was Warrington who were on the losing side when Catalans lifted the Challenge Cup for the first time three years ago.
Wolves hooker Daryl Clark, who returns after missing last Sunday's 28-22 defeat to Wakefield Trinity due to serving a one-match ban, is expecting it to be no different at the Halliwell Jones Stadium where the battle with him and Dragons No 9 Micky McIlorum is likely to be one to watch.
"Micky McIlorum is always a tough battle," Clark said. "He's aggressive and always in your ear, he's got good line speed and always brings the fight.
"He's always good to play against and you know what you're going to get with him, he's a tough player who wears his heart on his sleeve.
"We know they've got more than just him; they've got a lot of good strike players but he's definitely one to watch."
Warrington hold the distinction of being one of the few teams to defeat Catalans this year, beating them 24-8 at Stade Gilbert Brutus in April and 16-6 in the Challenge Cup quarter-finals the following month, although head coach Steve Price is wary of the danger posed by the Super League leaders.
"We've had some good battles against Catalans but it's a different ball game on Thursday being back at home," Price said. "They're in fine form as the competition leaders and they've been playing some really good football as of late."
Can Catalans do it for Maloney?
As if reaching the Super League Grand Final and lifting the title for the first time is not motivation is enough, the Dragons have an added incentive to claim glory at Old Trafford this year following James Maloney's retirement announcement.
The former Australia international stand-off has established himself as a vital cog in the machine at Catalans since joining them ahead of the 2020 season and the French side would love nothing more than to send him out on a high.
Maloney did have the option for a third year with the Dragons, but the 35-year-old believes the end of this season is the right time to bring his playing career to a close.
"I've had a lot of fun and been very fortunate to have a long career that has given me and my family so many opportunities," Maloney said.
"I'm very grateful to the Dragons for the opportunity to come and play over here and for how they have looked after me and the family in difficult circumstances with everything going on in the world and I hope that I can repay that by finishing this season lifting the trophy."
Head coach Steve McNamara could not be happier with the impact Maloney has made in the south of France and knows his side claiming a first win at the Halliwell Jones Stadium since 2011 over Super League's third-placed team would be a big step towards a successful end to the year.
"His contribution over the last two seasons for the Dragons cannot be overstated and he has a huge desire to now finish the season and his career on a successful note," McNamara, whose side got back to winning ways last week with a 31-16 win at home to Hull FC, said.
As well as Clark being available again, captain Jack Hughes is back in contention for Warrington after completing a one-match suspension of his own. Prop Robbie Mulhern is also included in the squad after undergoing an eye operation earlier in the week.
Benjamin Jullien has been cleared to play for Catalans, but the French side are without Alrix Da Costa, Paul Seguier, Joel Tomkins, Matt Whitley, Benjamin Garcia, Jason Baitieri and Arthur Romano due to injury.
Warrington Wolves: Sitaleki Akauola, Matty Ashton, Blake Austin, Josh Charnley, Daryl Clark, Mike Cooper, Ben Currie, Matt Davis, Chris Hill, Jack Hughes, Toby King, Tom Lineham, Jake Mamo, Robbie Mulhern, Joe Philbin, Stefan Ratchford, Josh Thewlis, Danny Walker, Gareth Widdop, George Williams, Connor Wrench.
Catalans Dragons: Arthur Mourgue, Tom Davies, Samisoni Langi, Dean Whare, Fouad Yaha, James Maloney, Josh Drinkwater, Gil Dudson, Micky McIlorum, Julian Bousquet, Benjamin Jullien, Mickael Goudemand, Matthieu Laguerre, Corentin Le Cam, Mathieu Cozza, Joe Chan, Sam Kasiano, Sam Tomkins, Jordan Dezaria, Cesar Rouge.