The Super League makes its long-anticipated return this weekend, with last season’s champions St Helens kick-starting their title defence against Salford Red Devils. 

Perhaps it may be difficult to match the heroics of securing last season’s trophy, but St Helens will be in pursuit of a third successive Grand Final win come October.

In what seemed to be a three-horse race, Saints ended the season victorious, with Jack Welsby’s 80th-minute try securing the win against fierce rivals Wigan Warriors.

For Salford, the ultimate objective will be making this season’s play-offs – an achievable target for the side who ended last campaign with three wins on the bounce, which included a tight affair against the Saints.

Salford also lost out by a single point in the Challenge Cup against Leeds Rhinos last year and are seemingly a club on the brink of success.

Despite St Helens being the home side, the match will be played at Headingley Stadium in Leeds – as will all first round fixtures.

The reason why the contest will be played in West Yorkshire is because of Sky Sports’ decision to broadcast all six opening fixtures. Some have been angered by the decision the league has come to, but in a year where the sport has been so deeply hurt by the ongoing pandemic, broadcasting revenue has become increasingly important.

St Helens and Salford Team news

St Helens go into Friday’s contest with three fresh faces from Australia’s National Rugby League, with Sione Mata’utia, Joel Thompson and Agnatius Paasi, all set to make their competitive debuts.

Morgan Knowles will miss out though. The forward’s complications with an ongoing thumb injury means Friday is still too soon.

A familiar face has taken charge at Salford this year, with former Saints assistant coach Richard Marshall taking the top job with the Red Devils.

Marshall has a rather depleted squad compared to his opposite number though, and will travel to Leeds without Joe Burgess, Greg Burke, Oliver Roberts, Darcy Lussick and Andy Ackers.

Kick off time and how to watch

As a result of the deal struck between Sky Sport and the Betfred Super League, all six first round matches will be shown on Sky Sports arena, with three of these ties (including Saints vs Salford) will be shown on Sky Sports main event.

The match will kick-off at 6pm and will be immediately followed by Leigh Centurions’ clash with Wigan Warriors.

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