St Helens prop Alex Walmsley feels Friday’s top-of-the-table clash with Warrington is more than just a derby.
The Betfred Super League leaders face the second-placed Wolves in a much-hyped contest at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.
Last week a plane flew over the Totally Wicked Stadium as Saints played Leeds, with a banner reading “The Wolves are waiting”.
That has added to the build-up and, with a big crowd expected on a warm evening, Walmsley believes the ingredients are in place for one of the games of the season.
The Saints forward told PA: “The attention on social media and in the press has been fantastic.
“Warrington have stepped up their marketing this year, trying to do things rugby clubs haven’t done in the past, and we’re giving a bit back.
“It’s great, it adds to the rivalry between two great clubs. It’s not just another derby. There’s a lot more to it now.
“It’s first versus second and an opportunity to put a marker down for the rest of the campaign.”
Saints have a six-point advantage at the summit but Warrington have looked the side most likely to challenge them, despite a 38-12 loss when the sides met on Merseyside in April.
Walmsley, 29, said: “We are coming up against a quality outfit. They have been fantastic all year.
“Along with ourselves, we’ve been the form teams of the season. They’re sitting where they are for a reason and we’re expecting a tough game. It is important we are fresh and ready to go.”
Warrington captain Chris Hill, who will doubtless come up against Walmsley on the field, is relishing the encounter.
The England prop said: “It’s going to be a sell-out – that’s what rugby league needs. It needs the hype and people talking about it.
“There is a buzz. It’s first v second. You go in coffee shops and people are talking about it. That’s what we should have.
“It’s a massive game for us. We’ve got to play our best rugby but we know we can match them.”
Two other games take place on Friday with champions Wigan hosting Salford and Wakefield facing Huddersfield.
Wigan and Salford are locked together on 18 points and the winner would gain an advantage in the battle for a top-five spot.
Warriors coach Adrian Lam said: “We’ve played a couple of times already this year and we know what they are capable of.
“They are a team that’s playing for each other at the moment. They have a dig and if you don’t turn up early on they will take advantage.”
Salford have won their last two but will need to readjust after losing half-back Robert Lui to Leeds, with Tui Lolohea arriving in his place.
Wakefield will be hoping to arrest a run of five successive defeats as they face the Giants. Their last win came against Huddersfield – a narrow 26-25 success – early last month.