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Super League - Rugby League: Derby battles dominate Easter period

Easter weekend is always a special time in the rugby league calendar, and there are more derby battles on the agenda on Thursday and Friday in Round 8 of Super League.

It is tight at the top with both St Helens and Wigan Warriors on 12 points ahead of their Good Friday contest, while Huddersfield Giants and Catalans Dragons can move level with them if they win their games on Thursday.

Super League Table

1stSt Helens712

At the bottom, both Toulouse Olympique and Leeds Rhinos have still only won once, and the relentless fixture list over the coming days could have huge consequences on the league table.

All eyes on the south of France

Toulouse will look to spring a surprise when they play local rivals Catalans Dragons. Thursday's battle will be a first for Super League, and the pressure will be on Steve McNamara's men to put their enemies in their place.

Even though Toulouse have won just once all season, their best performances have come against the better teams, including Wigan Warriors and St Helens, so Catalans will need to be at their best to pick up the two points.

McNamara's side lost in last week's Challenge Cup quarter-finals to St Helens and the former England coach will be without Sam Tomkins and Gil Dudson this Thursday.

With those injuries in mind, Toulouse could be worth considering on the +20.5 handicap at 4/5, and anything could happen in such a passionate contest.

Tigers playing catchup at Belle Vue

Like Catalans, Castleford were eliminated from the Challenge Cup last weekend, but Lee Radford's side have only won two of their opening seven matches.

Wakefield Trinity also crashed out of the Challenge Cup, so for both sides, Thursday's game is their sole focus.

Willie Poching's team appear to have found their rhythm of late, winning their last three league games, but halfback Jacob Miller will play no part in Thursday's contest at Belle Vue.

Winger Tom Johnstone could return from injury, and Trinity may need him to, with Castleford also improving, having won their previous two Super League fixtures.

A win for Castleford could see them move level on points with Wakefield, and at 8/11, they have every chance, with the Tigers winning the last sixteen meetings between the pair.

Giants travel to Headingley at the perfect time

Despite a busy off-season, Leeds Rhinos are struggling and they are without a permanent boss after Richard Agar stepped down last month.

Leeds chief Gary Hetherington is still on the lookout for his replacement, but for now, they have Super League duties to focus on. They welcome Ian Watson's Huddersfield to Headingley on Thursday at 20:00, and considering the recent form, it is a surprise to see the Giants available at 4/5.

The Rhinos were nilled by St Helens in their previous league game, and with only one win to their name, they should struggle against Huddersfield, who are up to third in the league table.

Aidan Sezer, Richie Myler, Harry Newman, David Fusitu'a and Corey Johnson will play no part in Friday's game, and without a leader in the dugout, Leeds should struggle once again.

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Time for Warrington to make their mark

Daryl Powell's tenure at Warrington has not exactly started well, with the Wolves winning only three from seven matches.

Hull KR got the better of them in Super League earlier this month, and they continue to struggle without Greg Minikin, George Williams and Oliver Holmes.

However, they should cover the -10.5 handicap at 10/11. Thursday's opponents, Salford, have conceded some soft tries throughout the campaign so may struggle to keep Warrington at bay.

Good Friday to deliver an Easter treat

The two biggest games of the Easter period will take place on Friday as Hull KR face Hull FC at 12:30 before St Helens tackle Wigan Warriors.

Rugby League has changed in recent years, but both of those fixtures were famous for their fighting and breathtaking action.

There is less riding on Hull FC vs Hull KR with both teams in mid-table, but there will be no love lost between the pair.

Ethan Ryan's return could be pivotal for the Robins, but halfback Mikey Lewis will miss the next six to eight weeks due to an ankle injury.

The odds suggest this is anyone's game, with Hull KR 4/5 to win, while the Black and Whites are 1/1.

RL fans could be in for a treat when St Helens and Wigan go at it, with the winner set to end the day on top of the Super League table.

Saints, who are 1/4 to win, have only lost once all season, but that did come to recently-promoted Toulouse.

Wigan, 3/1 to win at the Totally Wicked Stadium, have also only lost once, and their defence has been their biggest asset all season.

They will need to produce similar heroics this Friday, with St Helens averaging just short of 30 points per game so far this season.

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