IN just over 24 hours, Warrington Wolves and Hull KR will face off in a mouth-watering opening to Super League Round 11.

Two of the six sides locked together on 14 points at the top of the table lock horns at The Halliwell Jones Stadium as both bid to enhance their title credentials.

Here, our Wire reporter Matt Turner takes a look at five key pre-match talking points...

Set fair for a belter

It is difficult to imagine this game being set up any better than it is.

Two sides who have enjoyed fine starts to the season, with little to separate them in pretty much every metric going head-to-head to kick off Round 11.

Is this a genuine “50-50” contest? Will home advantage make the crucial difference for Warrington? Does Hull KR’s convincing wins over Wigan and St Helens in the past fortnight make them favourites?

All will be revealed on Thursday night in a clash between two clubs who have displayed all the hallmarks of being contenders.

It does not look like the weather will play a part either, with a dry and calm evening forecast following a week of warm weather.

That will be music to the ears of two sides who have displayed a penchant for the expansive and the neutrals tuning in hoping the contest lives up to its billing.

A chance to send out a message

Let’s not forget, there is a very real possibility that we could be about to watch a dress rehearsal for next month’s Challenge Cup Final.

While that prospect will not have crossed the minds of either head coach yet (more on that later), whoever wins will certainly be sending out a message that they are here to stay when it comes to the top end of Super League.

It can be argued Hull KR have already achieved that by beating the reigning world champions and the winners of four of the past five Super League titles in consecutive weeks, but winning a game against a rival away from home would boost them further with five of their seven wins having come at Craven Park.

There are still plenty who argue that Warrington still lack a similar kind of “statement” win in Super League under Sam Burgess, although the Round Four success in East Hull is getting more impressive and valuable by the week.

Getting the job done on Thursday would definitely fall into that category.

A good start so important

Although they improved in this respect against Hull FC on Friday, something that has caused a bit of concern in recent weeks is how Wire have been starting games.

In Burgess’ words, they “missed the jump” physically against Salford Red Devils and Leigh Leopards and as a result, they found themselves on the back foot.

If that is repeated on Thursday, they are likely to find themselves in deep trouble against a Rovers side who are well-renowned for “front-loading” – rugby league terminology for investing heavily in their starts to games.

Wigan found that out to their cost in Round Nine and they found themselves 18-0 down, while the game got away from St Helens very quickly once Rovers established command.

Both teams are capable of devastating purple patches with the creative talent in their ranks, but they first must earn the right to unleash it.

Will looming semi-final play on minds?

We have already mentioned the Challenge Cup in this piece and the next time these two meet could very well be at Wembley Stadium on June 8.

We’ll know that for sure at the end of next weekend, with both sides having semi-finals to look forward to after this game.

On Thursday, however, we’ll see just how much minds have started to wander to those big dates on the horizon.

There have been the usual pre-match platitudes about only focusing on what is in front of them from both camps, but it can sometimes be natural for games like this to creep towards the forefront of players’ minds.

Of course, this is a big enough game in its own right and the timing of it means there is time for both sides to get an ample amount of rest and training time in before tackling the semi-finals.

However, hearts will be in mouths if anyone goes down hurt…

‘An atmosphere worthy of the game?’

In his pre-match press conference, Burgess called upon the Warrington fans to “get amongst it” and create as lively an atmosphere as possible on Thursday night.

Plenty have observed that, for whatever reason, The Halliwell Jones Stadium has felt a little flat on matchdays this season and the average gate for the first five Super League home games is down at 9,660 compared to 11,719 after five games last year.

While there are a whole host of mitigating factors to point to, a 17 per cent decrease is not a figure anyone at the club will enjoy reading.

The Thursday night billing will not help and is likely to hinder the travelling numbers of Robins supporters but regardless of how many are in attendance, the biggest contributor to atmosphere is having something to get behind on the pitch.

Will the fans respond to their head coach’s rallying cry?