RLWC2013 stars stand toe to toe as play-offs intensify

For two teams Old Trafford will await, while for the others the dream will die.

The Super League play-offs reach the semi-final stage this Thursday and Friday as Warrington take on Huddersfield and Wigan collide with Leeds.

And the two matches will provide an opportunity for several potential stars of Rugby League World Cup 2013 to demonstrate their talents ahead of the big kick-off at the Millennium Stadium on October 26.

Thursday’s clash between the Wolves and the Giants could see a number of international stars afforded an early opportunity to lay down a marker for their nation.

For the Giants, Ukuma Ta’i is celebrating being named in the Tongan train-on squad this week, while Ireland’s Scott Grix, Wales captain Craig Kopczak, Scotland’s Danny Brough and England stars Leroy Cudjoe, Eorl Crabtree and Brett Ferres should all play key roles for the visitors.

The Wolves, meanwhile, will again look towards Wales veteran Lee Briers to provide the spark in the middle of the field, though reports that Briers could come out of retirement at RLWC2013 are yet to be validated.

Elsewhere, England’s Richie Myler, Stefan Ratchford, Garreth Carvell, Adrian Morley, Ryan Atkins and Ben Westwood should be at heart of the action for the Wolves.

In the game between Wigan Warriors and Leeds Rhinos 24 hours later, England’s two first-choice wingers will go head to head as Wigan’s Josh Charnley takes on Leeds counterpart Ryan Hall.

In the middle of the park, Kevin Sinfield and Rob Burrow will be looking to prove themselves a potent half-back partnership for England, while Carl Ablett, Jamie Jones-Buchanan, Kallum Watkins, Zak Hardaker, Ryan Bailey will be keen to boost their selection prospects.

Wigan will count on Sam Tomkins to inject life into the Wigan attack, although half-back Matty Smith could also be in the reckoning for England selection after earning selection in the Super League Dream Team, and forwards Lee Mossop and Liam Farrell will also aim up, as team-mate Sean O’Loughlin continues his recovery from an ankle injury.

Hooker Michael McIllorum and centre Darrell Goulding will also seek to grasp Friday evening’s opportunity, while the Welsh contingent of Andy Powell, Gil Dudson and Ben Flower will also be eager to impress, as will Tongan monster Epalahame Lauaki.

With two great matches in prospect, it’s not surprise that everybody is talking about the Super League play-offs, and international Rugby League is again expected to be at the heart of the excitement.