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Saturday Super League: Weekend Preview

They have grown used to magic in Newcastle since Eddie Howe took over as manager of the Magpies, but this weekend it’s the turn of the oval ball to weave its spell.

The Betfred Super League’s Magic Weekend takes centre stage at St. James’ Park and the first thing you might notice is the abundance of strange kits.

It’s become a tradition of the two-day event for clubs to come up with new strips that highlight a cause or showcase their respect for individuals and this year Leeds Rhinos will do both.

The players will be a wearing a nifty-looking blue and yellow tartan number that pays tribute to Doddie Weir, who died after being affected by motor neurone disease.

The same condition has afflicted Rob Burrow, so all proceeds from the sale of the kit will go to the My Name’s Doddie Foundation.

Leeds will close out Saturday’s three games when they face Castleford Tigers, with both clubs desperate to build on underwhelming campaigns so far.

Leeds are eighth in the table and Castleford bottom-but-one, but Cas beat the Rhinos, 14-8, when they met at The Jungle and may fancy their chances of completing the double.

Saturday kicks off with Salford Red Devils playing host to Hull KR – a meeting between two clubs who are both over-delivering on expectations so far this season.

Hull KR are fourth and Salford sixth, but both are on 16 points with identical records of eight wins and five defeats from 13 matches. Both clubs have injury issues but this one will be too close to call.

Title favourites Wigan Warriors – who lay second in the table behind leaders Warrington Wolves – are also likely to be severely tested by Catalan Dragons in the second game on Saturday.

Catalans enjoyed a memorable Magic Weekend last season when they beat St. Helens and will fancy their chances again as Wigan suffered back-to-back defeats earlier in the month to Hull and then Leeds and have key men ruled out through injury.

On Sunday morning, few will give Wakefield Trinity much chance of beating Leigh Leopards in the opening game of the day.

Wakefield are rock bottom and without a win all year and looks odds-on for relegation, despite re-signing Tongan prop David Fifita this week.

Leigh, in contrast, are up to fifth and looking like play-off contenders after their superb recent 30-12 victory over Warrington Wolves.

They also hammered Wakefield 40-12 a fortnight ago in the Challenge Cup.

St. Helens and Huddersfield Giants will both hope to get their season firing when they clash on Sunday afternoon.

Saints are back in seventh place and the Giants are ninth, although Saints should be too strong judged by Huddersfield’s recent record of just one win in their last five matches.

Lewis Dodd kicked a winning drop goal last time out to give Saints a narrow 13-12 win over Leeds.

It has been suggested the Magic Weekend jamboree could be scrapped after this year, but Saints coach Paul Wellens is still a fan and says: “It has been part of the calendar since 2007, and having rugby league on the road and going to different places has been really healthy.

“I’m not sure what the plan is moving forward, but I’ve always enjoyed experience, and loved it when I was playing.”

In the final match of the weekend, Hull – who are in 10th place – will bid to try and stop leaders Warrington.

After that shock defeat to Leigh, the Wolves are likely to relish a quick opportunity to get themselves back on track.

Warrington coach Adam Lam says: “That defeat had probably been coming for a few weeks.

“We have been winning games but have not been great, so we need to rediscover the way we played at the start of the season and get back to those levels.”

Magic Weekend 2023 fixtures

Saturday, June 3: 1.30pm – Salford Red Devils vs Hull Kingston Rovers; 3.45pm – Wigan Warriors vs Catalans Dragons; 6pm – Leeds Rhinos vs Castleford Tigers.

Sunday, June 4: 12pm – Wakefield Trinity vs Leigh Leopards; 2.15pm – St Helens vs Huddersfield Giants; 4.30pm – Hull FC vs Warrington Wolves.

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