Rick Stone is expecting a tough test against a familiar foe as St Helens arrive at the John Smith’s Stadium tonight.
Huddersfield Giants head coach Stone and Saints new team manager Justin Holbrook have both served Newcastle Knights in Australia’s NRL in the past.
And Stone, who arrived at the Giants in July last year, has not been surprised by the impact his fellow Australian has had with Saints, having won three of four games following the arrival of the 41-year-old former Kangaroos Under 21 coach.
“Most teams get some positive response when a new coach comes in,” said Stone.
“I know Justin well and he will be looking to impress.
“He’s a good bloke and a very good coach and I am sure he will do a good job at St Helens.
“He has a lot to work with at a successful club with a tremendous amount of tradition and history.
“It will take him a while to stamp his mark on the club, but since he arrived and got involved at the Magic Weekend he has certainly gained a good response from the players.
“I expect that improvement to continue for Saints over the next few matches.”
However, Stone has overseen just as dramatic an improvement from his own side, and they go into the Super League showdown having notched 100 points in their last two outings – a 44-4 home win over Warrington Wolves and a 56-12 success at Catalans Dragons.
“The Catalans Dragons game was a good performance in tough conditions,” said Stone.
“We set the guys a task, considering we travelled on the day and they managed that situation well because when we got there it was pretty hot.
“The boys handled the conditions really well and they built again on what they achieved in winning against Warrington in the previous round.
“To come away having scored a fair few points and not having conceded too many was a really good performance.”
The meeting is the only Super League game of the weekend and for both teams it is a chance to consolidate a place in Super League’s top eight.
“It is an important game as it is the only Super League game of the weekend and whoever takes the points will be pretty happy,” said Stone.
“Given the context of the table it is important to both teams, and obviously our outlook is to try to build on a lot of the things we have done well over recent games.
“The boys are pretty healthy and happy and raring to have a crack at Saints.
“If we can continue to perform as we have done in the past few weeks we should have a good chance.
“We have scored a few points, but it has been the not conceding too many that has been the major improvement for us.
“Our attack has generally been good, but we needed to get good defensively.”
Giants: Jake Mamo, Jermaine McGillvary, Leroy Cudjoe, Lee Gaskell, Aaron Murphy, Danny Brough, Sam Rapira, Ryan Hinchcliffe, Shannon Wakeman, Dale Ferguson, Kruise Leeming, Sebastine Ikahihifo, Oliver Roberts, Ukuma Ta’ai, Paul Clough, Nathan Mason, Alex Mellor, Adam O’Brien, Martyn Ridyard
Saints: Jonny Lomax, Tommy Makinson, Ryan Morgan, Mark Percival, Adam Swift, Theo Fages, Matty Smith, Alex Walmsley, James Roby, Kyle Amor, Jon Wilkin, Louie Mccarthy-Scarsbrook, Luke Douglas, Luke Thompson, Tommy Lee, Morgan Knowles, Danny Richardson, Regan Grace, Zeb Taia.
St Helens’ Adam Swift has scored a try in each of his side’s last three meetings with Huddersfield Giants.
James Roby needs one try to reach a career century of touchdowns. Roby has touched down 91 times for St Helens since 2004, to go with seven tries for England (2008-2013 & 2015) and one for Great Britain (2006-2007).
Players on try-scoring runs are Giants’ duo, full-back Jake Mamo with six (1-1-4) in the last three rounds and England winger Jermaine McGillvary five (1-2-2) in three, while St Helens’ Mark Percival has four (2-1-1) in three games.
2017 meeting: St Helens 14, Huddersfield 14 (Super League Round 8, 7/4/17)
Super League summary: Huddersfield have won 10, St Helens have won 33 (includes wins in 2009 and 2010 play-offs) with one draw
Huddersfield highest score: 48-20 (MW, 2016) (Widest margin: 40-4, A, 2013)
St Helens highest score: 68-18 (H, 1998) (Widest margin: 68-18, H, 1998; 54-4, H, 2007)