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Last Updated: Sunday, 5 February 2006, 20:47 GMT
Super League XI
DAVE WOODS PREDICTS
1. St Helens
2. Leeds Rhinos
3. Wigan Warriors
4. Warrington Wolves
5. Hull FC
6. Harlequins RL
7. Bradford Bulls
8. Huddersfield Giants
9. Catalan Dragons
10. Castleford Tigers
11. Wakefield Wildcats
12. Salford Reds

With Super League XI poised to kick off on Friday, many observers are predicting the closest ever competition.

As the salary cap and 20/20 rule starts to bite, Bradford will be pushed all the way as they attempt to defend their title.

Leeds, St Helens and Wigan are all expected to offer a stiff challenge to the Bulls, while Catalans Dragons' inclusion sees the first French Super League side since Paris' unsuccessful attempts in the late 1990s.

Elsewhere, Castleford return to the big time after a season out of the limelight and Harlequins RL will bring the union side's famous shirts into the rugby league arena for the first time.

BBC Sport has gathered together the crucial information on all 12 Super League clubs, with BBC Sport's Dave Woods giving his thought on how each team will fare.

BRADFORD BULLS

Coach: Brian Noble
Stadium: Odsal, 26,019 capacity
Last season: Third in table, Grand Final winners
Regular season odds: 11-4
Players in: Marcus Bai (Leeds), Chris McKenna (Leeds), Terry Newton (Wigan), Adam Watene (Castleford), Stanley Gene (Huddersfield), Marcus St Hilaire (Halifax)
Players out: Robbie Paul (Huddersfield), Jamie Peacock (Leeds), Stuart Reardon (Warrington), Leon Pryce (St Helens), Rob Parker (Warrington), Lee Radford (Hull), Karl Pratt (Doncaster)
Dave Woods: Wigan's demise in 2005 proved the so-called "Big Four" are not immune to barren seasons and this could be the year Bradford lose their way a little. They've lost some good players and the new recruits have a lot to live up to. Brian Noble's record stands comparison with any of the great coaches, but this year could be his toughest test.

CASTLEFORD TIGERS

Coach: Terry Matterson
Stadium: The Jungle, 11,750 capacity
Last season: Promoted from National League One
Odds: 1,000-1
Players in: Danny Sculthorpe (Wigan, loan), Luke Dyer (Penrith), Matt Whitaker (Widnes), Andy Bailey (Hull), Danny Nutley (Cronulla), Willie Manu (St George Illawarra), Keith Mason (St Helens, loan), Richard Fa'aoso (Sydney), Ben Roarty (Huddersfield), Gray Viane (St Helens), Ryan McGoldrick (Cronulla)
Players out: Brad Davis (ret), Michael Eager (ret), Andrew Vowles (ret), Adam Watene (Bradford), Jon Hepworth (Leinster RU), Alex Rowe (Doncaster), Steve Crouch (rel), Frank Watene (Dewsbury), Jordan James (Swinton), Leigh Cooke (Batley) Andy Bailey (Oldham), Damien Reid (Widnes, trial), Alex Rowe (Gateshead), Leigh Cooke (Batley), Dominic Brambani (Halifax)
Dave Woods: They will find it tough, but Terry Matterson comes highly rated and knows the English game well enough. Danny Nutley, Danny Sculthorpe, Keith Mason and Ben Roarty add a lot of experience and know-how to the pack, and Willie Manu and Ryan McGoldrick could be exciting signings. They will win enough on home soil to avoid relegation.

CATALAN DRAGONS

Coach: Matt Adamson (caretaker)
Stadium: Aime Giral Stadium (Perpignan), 14,000 capacity
(The Dragons will also play home matches in Figueres and Narbonne)
Last season: First season in Super League
Odds: 100-1
Players in: Stacey Jones (NZ Warriors), Mark Hughes (Newcastle), Ian Hindmarsh (Canberra), Jerome Guisset (Wigan), John Wilson (Wests Tigers), Alex Chan (Melbourne), Remy Casty (Lezignan), Freddie Zitter (Barrow)
Players out: Steve Hall (rel), Romain Gagliazzo (Limoux)
Dave Woods: In Stacey Jones they have an undoubted star, and they have some solidly experienced players in the likes of Mark Hughes, Ian Hindmarsh and Jerome Guisset. The bulk of the squad is French and not used to the rigours of Super League. There are some real talents, but the grind of high-quality competition each week could prove their undoing. A nomadic home-life may also hinder their hopes.

HARLEQUINS

Coach: Tony Rea
Stadium: Twickenham Stoop Stadium, 12,500 capacity
Last season: Sixth (as London Broncos), lost to Bradford in play-offs
Odds: 200-1
Players in: Chad Randall (Manly), David Mills (Widnes), Rikki Sheriffe (Halifax), Pat Weisner (Halifax), Karl Temata (NZ Warriors), Tim Hartley (Salford), Daniel Heckenberg (Manly), Matt Gafa (Canberra)
Players out: Francis Stephenson (Hull KR), Steve Trindall (Whitehaven), Anthony Armour (Eastern Suburbs), Dave Highton (Halifax), Mark O'Halloran (Penrith), John Kirkpatrick (Widnes, trial), Lee Sanderson (Rochdale), Feleti Mateo (Parramatta), Ade Adebisi (Hull, loan), Mitchell Stringer (Salford)
Dave Woods: The British game as a whole will be hoping Tim Hartley can establish himself in the highly-talented Harlequins backline. Getting used to the new name will be the hardest part for the rest of us. But the fact the team will now be playing at a ground that actually feels likes home will give them a big advantage. This will be a big year for the Quins.

HUDDERSFIELD GIANTS

Coach: Jon Sharp
Stadium: Galpharm Stadium, 24,500 capacity
Last season: Eighth
Odds: 150-1
Players in: Robbie Paul (Bradford), Stephen Wild (Wigan), Martin Aspinwall (Wigan), Mat Gardner (Leeds), Albert Torrens (St George Illawarra), Steve Snitch (Wakefield), Andy Raleigh (Hull KR)
Players out: Stanley Gene (Bradford), Marcus St Hilaire (Halifax), Paul White (Wakefield), Ben Roarty (Castleford), Ryan Clayton (Salford), Stephen Jones (Batley), Lee Greenwood (Leigh), Iain Morrison (Hull KR), Rikki Sheriffe (Harlequins, loan), Jason Southwell (Dewsbury), Hefin O'Hare (Glasgow RU), Mick Slicker (retired)
Dave Woods: Robbie Paul is undoubtedly the highest-profile signing in their recent history. Off the field, with extra interest and season ticket sales, he's probably already repaid the investment in him. But can he still cut it on the pitch? Robbie, no doubt, aims to prove he can. Aussie finisher Albert Torrens may also be an eye catcher. Top six is a realistic target.

HULL FC

Coach: John Kear
Stadium: KC Stadium, capacity 25,404
Last season: Fifth, lost to Bradford in play-offs
Odds: 33-1
Players in: Lee Radford (Bradford), Sid Domic (Wakefield), Ade Adebisi (Harlequins, loan)
Players out: Richie Barnett Junior (Warrington), Paul McNicholas (rel), Andy Bailey (Castleford), Stephen Kearney (ret)
Dave Woods: Stephen Kearney's steadying influence will be missed, but in come Sid Domic and Lee Radford to give them added durability. Having won the Challenge Cup, this should be a year for Hull to exude self-belief. If several of their top performers can continue to improve then this should be another year of challenging for top honours.

LEEDS RHINOS

Coach: Tony Smith
Stadium: Headingley, capacity 21,225 (reduced to 16,600 for 2006)
Last season: Second, lost to Bradford in Grand Final
Odds: 2-1
Players in: Jamie Peacock (Bradford), Mark O'Neill (Wests Tigers), Shane Millard (Widnes), Scott Donald (Manly), Nathan McAvoy (Salford), Chris Feather (Wakefield, end of loan), Peter Fox (York, end of loan), Ian Kirke (York)
Players out: Marcus Bai (Bradford), Chris McKenna (Bradford), Barrie McDermott (ret), Mark Calderwood (Wigan), Andrew Dunemann (Salford), Mat Gardner (Huddersfield), Francis Cummins (ret), Scott Murrell (Hull KR), Danny Ward (released), Jason Golden (York, on loan)
Dave Woods's verdict: You'd think they would miss Mark Calderwood's finishing, Andrew Dunemann's midfield direction and a bit of power up front in the form of Danny Ward and Barrie McDermott. But they have replaced those elements with the signing of speedster Scott Donald, hooker Shane Millard and, of course, Jamie Peacock. Of all the new boys, those three in particular could have massive seasons.

SALFORD REDS

Coach: Karl Harrison
Stadium: The Willows, 11,363 capacity
Last season: Ninth
Odds: 500-1
Players in: Stephen Myler (Widnes), Simon Finnigan (Widnes), Aaron Moule (Widnes), John Wilshere (Leigh), Andrew Dunemann (Salford), Ryan Clayton (Huddersfield)
Players out: Cliff Beverley (ret), Mark Shipway (rel), Nathan McAvoy (Leeds), Simon Baldwin (rel), Andy Johnson (ret), Stuart Dickens (Featherstone), Neil Baynes (Whitehaven), Andy Smith (Bradford), Tim Hartley (Harlequins)
Dave Woods: Someone has to finish bottom, and it might just be Salford. A run of three wins could have you challenging for the top six but a run of three defeats could leave you floundering near the bottom. It's been a battle every year since promotion for the Reds. Under Karl Harrison, they have never lacked spirit, but this might be their unlucky year.

ST HELENS

Coach: Daniel Anderson
Stadium: Knowsley Road, 17,100 capacity
Last season: First, lost to Bradford in play-offs
Odds: 7-4 favourites
Players in: Leon Pryce (Bradford), Jason Cayless (Sydney), Francis Meli (NZ Warriors)
Players out: Micky Higham (Wigan), Darren Albert (Cronulla), Keith Mason (Castleford, loan), Gray Viane (Castleford), Mark Edmondson (Sydney)
Dave Woods: They finished first last year and there's no reason to think they won't dominate again. An already very strong squad has been boosted by Francis Meli, Jason Cayless and Leon Pryce. And, of course, Paul Sculthorpe will hopefully figure more prominently this time.

WAKEFIELD TRINITY WILDCATS

Coach: Tony Smith
Stadium: Atlantic Solutions Stadium, capacity 10,000
Last season: Tenth
Odds: 250-1
Players in: Monty Betham (New Zealand Warriors), Ned Catic (Sydney), Craig Hall (Newcastle), Jon Whittle (Widnes), Paul White (Huddersfield), Austin Buchanan (York)
Players out: Sid Domic (Hull), Julian O'Neill (Leigh), Rob Spicer (York), Steve Snitch (Huddersfield), Rob Spicer (York), Michael Wainwright (Batley), Andy Kirk (Halifax), Liam Campbell (Barrow), Liam Finn (Featherstone)
Dave Woods: I've tipped a lowly finish, but the Wildcats are also capable of finishing in the top six. Ned Catic and Monty Betham are great signings. If they can keep it together and avoid injuries they might fly. But it could also be a struggle in this, potentially, tightest of Super Leagues.

WARRINGTON WOLVES

Coach: Paul Cullen
Stadium: Halliwell Jones Stadium, 14,206 capacity
Last season:Fourth, lost to Hull in play-offs
Odds: 16-1
Players in: Stuart Reardon (Bradford), Richie Barnett Junior (Hull), Paul Rauhihi (North Queensland), Michael Sullivan (Cronulla), Rob Parker (Bradford), Michael Sullivan (Cronulla)
Players out: Nathan Wood (ret), Graham Appo (rel), Dean Gaskell (rel), Darryl Cardiss (rel), Warren Stevens (Leigh), Jamie Durbin (Doncaster), Nick Royle (rel)
Dave Woods: They finished fourth last year and look to have an even better balanced squad this time around. Michael Sullivan should fit straight into the shoes of Nat Wood. Paul Rauhihi and Rob Parker will give them extra power up front while Richie Barnett and Stuart Reardon give them a stronger-looking back-line. They'll be very tough to beat, anywhere.

WIGAN WARRIORS

Coach: Ian Millward
Stadium: JJB Stadium, 25,004 capacity
Last season: Seventh
Odds: 9-1
Players in: Mark Calderwood (Leeds), Pat Richards (Wests Tigers), Iaefeta Paleaaesina (NZ Warriors), Scott Logan (South Sydney), Bryan Fletcher (South Sydney), Micky Higham (St Helens)
Players out: Brian Carney (Newcastle), Danny Sculthorpe (Castleford, loan), James Coyle (Widnes), Bob Beswick (Widnes), Dave Allen (Widnes), Martin Aspinwall (Huddersfield), Stephen Wild (Huddersfield), Jerome Guisset (Catalan Dragons), Liam Botham (ret), Terry Newton (Bradford), Stephen Wild (Huddersfield), Martin Aspinwall (Huddersfield), Desi Williams (Hull KR), Lee Jewitt (rel)
Dave Woods: Ian Millward's first full year in charge and the squad he has assembled - barring injuries - looks good enough to re-establish Wigan as one of the powerhouses of the game. Mark Calderwood, Pat Richards, Scott Logan, Micky Higham, Iafeata Paleaaesina and Bryan Fletcher - plus the return from last year's long lay off of Gareth Hock and Sean O'Loughlin - makes the Wigan squad look very capable.

(Odds courtesy of Ladbrokes, correct as of 3 February 2005)




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