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Super League - Rugby League: Five key battles to watch out for

The stage is set for the 2022 Super League Grand Final, with St Helens and Leeds Rhinos set to fight it out once again for the trophy at Old Trafford.

St Helens are preparing themselves for their 14th appearance in a Grand Final, while Leeds will head to Old Trafford for the 11th time.

The two teams are usually sick of the sight of each other at Old Trafford, and this month's battle will be the fifth time they have met on the big stage, with Leeds coming out on top in all of those games.

However, they head to Manchester as the underdogs, and we look at the five main battles that will be crucial for victory at the "Theatre of Dreams".

WhatSt Helens vs. Leeds Rhinos
WhereOld Trafford, Manchester
When18:00, Saturday 24th September 2022
How to watchSky Sports Arena
OddsSt Helens 4/9, Leeds Rhinos 7/4

Woolf hoping to stop Smith's momentum

Kristian Woolf has already confirmed he is heading back Down Under this winter, but his impact at St Helens has been legendary.

In his first season in charge, he helped his side win the Grand Final at Wigan's expense, while he oversaw his team's victory over Catalans Dragons in last year's final.

Woolf has also won the Challenge Cup during his time in England, and he has won everything there is to win as Saints coach domestically.

Leeds boss Rohan Smith does not possess a CV with such riches, but he has turned the Rhinos from relegation candidates into potential Grand Final winners in six months.

While Woolf has experience on this stage, Smith will need to learn on the job, but his uncle Tony, who won the Grand Final with Leeds, could pass on some vital knowledge.

Experience versus youth at hooker

St Helens' James Roby just seems to find a way every season to keep going, even though he made his debut for his hometown club in 2004.

The 36-year-old has shown no signs of slowing down, but while his career is coming to an end, Leeds' Jarrod O'Connor is just starting out on his journey.

O'Connor is 15 years younger than his opposite number, but that may work in his favour as nobody is expecting him to succeed. He has to try and stop the best hooker in the league for 80 mins, but the Leeds ace does have speed on his side. If he can pick his battles carefully, O'Connor could be the unsung hero of Leeds' victory.

Oledzski hoping to lead Rhinos home

Grand Finals can often be cagey affairs, and the battle up front is always crucial, but sadly St Helens' Alex Walmsley will play no part due to injury. Team-mate Matty Lees will go up against fellow England international Mikolaj Oledzki at prop, and these two giants are vital to their respective teams' chances.

Both players will need to be at their best inside the early stages, and whoever wins this dual could help their side get over the line.

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Sutcliffe desperate to bow out on a high

Leeds centre Liam Sutcliffe will join Hull FC at the end of the campaign, and he is one of three players in the Rhinos' squad who won their last Grand Final in 2017.

Since then, he and his team-mates have struggled to enjoy the same success, but his experience will be needed on Saturday. He comes up against Konrad Hurrell, a former Leeds team-mate, and that will no doubt be entertaining until the final whistle.

Sutcliffe says he will try to treat the contest as any other game, but he will be put through his paces by Hurrell, whose bullish approach should be a handful for any of Leeds' defence.

Austin to face Lomax without Sezer

Blake Austin and Aidan Sezer have combined to devastating effect all season, but the latter will sit out Saturday's Grand Final due to concussion protocols.

Smith will no doubt be keeping his cards close to his chest when it comes to his gameplan, but Austin will remain as one of the halves. That means he must try to outperform Saints' Jonny Lomax.

Both stand-offs have delivered moments of magic all year, but they will need to repeat that at Old Trafford. Lomax was the star of the show as Saints beat the Salford Red Devils to reach the Grand Final, but Austin will hope his kicking game can be the difference between the duo.

Leeds are 4/5 to cover the +6.5 handicap and Austin will no doubt play a crucial role in that happening as he tries to create some magic behind Oledzki and O'Connor.

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