Wigan Warriors host Hull FC in one of Super League’s Play-Off Semi-Finals, on Friday night at the DW Stadium. The other Semi-Final will be contested on Thursday night, when Warrington Wolves host St Helens at the Halliwell Jones Stadium. The four best teams in Super League go head-to-head, to battle it out for that coveted spot in the Grand Final at Old Trafford.

All four sides have been there before, however, only two of them have gone on and actually lifted the trophy, those sides being Wigan and St Helens. Wigan have appeared in 8 Grand Finals winning 3 of them, St Helens have appeared in 10, winning 5 of those. Meanwhile Warrington have appeared in 2 with Hull FC just contesting 1, both sides failing in their attempts to be crowd Champions.

THE STORY SO FAR

Wigan and Hull will be facing each other for the fifth time this season. They have met twice in the regular season, once in the Challenge Cup Semi-Final and once more in the Super 8s. They’ll be going into this most anticipated Semi-Final at 2-2 with all to play for in what is arguably the biggest game they’ve played each other in this season.

Here’s the story of their previous four meetings…..

Wigan went to Hull in Round 4 of the Super League, and claimed a remarkable comeback victory in what was to be the start of a great series of games between to two clubs. Matty Smith would kick 2 drop goals in the final 5 minutes to seal a dramatic 26-25 victory for the Warriors.

Hull would travel to Wigan in Round 14, were they would seek revenge from there game earlier in the season. FC were in a great run of form and looking a great side. They came the the DW full of confidence and showed that by beating the Warriors 30-16.

Their third meeting in the season would come in the Challenge Cup Semi-Final played at The Keepmoat Stadium in Doncaster. Both sides were playing well, and it looked set to be great game. In the end, FC outdid the Warriors and beat them 16-12 in what was a dramatic game of Rugby League.

Their fourth game came only 3 weeks ago, when Hull hosted the Warriors in a Super 8s game that was full of drama. Wigan needed to win this game to maintain their top 4 position, while FC were going for the League Leaders Shield. Wigan snatched victory in the final moments as the Warriors beat FC 18-12.

Wigan go into this game on the back of a 48-24 victory over Catalan Dragons which secured them 2nd spot and a home game in the Semi-Finals. While Hull FC go into this game on the back of a 23-6 loss at home to the hands of Warrington Wolves, which cost them the League Leaders Shield and a home game in the Semi-Finals.

I didn’t want to go into much detail on these results as I honestly don’t think they play much of an impact going into this weeks Semi-Final. Form goes out of the window in such big games, it just depends who can handle the pressure on the night. I do believe that their previous four meetings will be much more useful to both clubs in the lead to this game. They can see where and why they lost their respective games against each other.

KEY BATTLES

This game will be a real rough and tough game of Rugby League. An exciting, nail biting and downright edgy game. Within this game, there’ll be many battles going on which will catch the eye of the fans watching in the stadium and at home.

The biggest battle on the night will be between the forwards, down the middles. It’ll be a tough task for Wigan, as FC have one of the biggest forward lines in the League. Wigan will look to try and slow down the ruck speed and win the battle early on. if they can maintain the speed off the ruck and control Danny Houghton, that’ll go a very long way in deciding the outcome of this Semi-Final.

The kicking in this game will be huge. Sneyd, is undoubtably the best kicker in the League, whether it be in-play or following a try. Smith, is very hot and cold when it comes to the boot. Some weeks he kicks them from out wide and misses the easy ones, and other weeks he can’t kick to save his life. This could play a huge factor in this game, as I see this game being very tight throughout.

Wigan are going into this game without a recognised winger or fullback. With both Manfredi and Sam Tomkins missing out, Tierney and Sarginson look set to keep their place in the side. This could play into FC’s hands as they will look to pick out these players and put them under pressure at any point.

The battle between both halfback pairings will be an interesting one. Smith and Williams will be looking to hit their best form in what is their biggest game of the season. Williams has been Wigan’s most dangerous player this season, being able to change a game in the blink of an eye. Hull will know this and I’m sure they’ll look to target the Wigan man from the get go. Tuimavave and Sneyd will continue their partnership that has proven to be very dangerous in recent months. Wigan will have to be on top of their defensive game to keep them out of the game.

PREDICTIONS

It’s the fifth meeting between these sides this season alone. Both sides will know how each other play, and what their strengths and weaknesses are. Hull are a big, strong side, while Wigan will be looking to maintain their recent form, even without so many key players. I think it’ll be a very tight game throughout, and it is tough to predict what will happen in any Semi-Final game, but I’ll give it a go.

Wigan Warriors by 4

PRE-GAME MEDIA

Wigan Warriors’ Matty Smith: “This is why we play, to play in semis and finals is what it’s all about. We’ve hit a little bit of form in the last couple of weeks so there’s some confidence within the group and we’re really looking forward to this Friday.”

“This time of year brings that intensity, there’s a Grand Final around the corner and we know what’s at stake so there’s an element of that as well. We’re looking forward to this week, we’re hitting form at the right time and are playing really well and there’s no reason why we can’t go one step further and reach another Grand Final.”

Credit to Wigan Warriors: http://www.wiganwarriors.com/news/2016-09-28-high-stakes

Hull FC’s Danny Houghton: “It’d a be a dream team (to reach and win at Old Trafford), as everyone keeps saying and we know that Friday night is going to be the toughest game we’ve had all season because they’re right in form at the minute and the team to beat.”

“Hopefully we can do a job on them. We know we’ve got the personnel and the game plan to do it. We’ve shown all season that when we’re not playing well we can still get a result and give ourselves a chance. I think that’s going to be the case on Friday night – it’s going to go down to the wire. Hopefully during the latter stages of the game some of our flair players or key players can come up with a big play for us and get us over that line.”

Credit to Hull FC: http://www.hullfc.com/news/2016-09-27-houghton-anticipating-toughest-test-of-the-season

SQUAD NEWS

Wigan make just one change with Academy Captain, Kyle Shelford, fit following a hand injury replacing the injured Sean O’Loughlin. The Club confirmed on Monday that O’Loughlin (calf) and Sam Tomkins (foot) will miss the remainder of 2016.

Youngster Jordan Abdull, who last featured in the visit to St Helens at beginning of September, comes into the squad with prop Chris Green the man to make way.

19-MAN SQUADS

Wigan Warriors: John Bateman, Joe Bretherton, Josh Charnley, Dom Crosby, Liam Farrell, Anthony Gelling, Oliver Gildart, Willie Isa, Frank-Paul Nuuausala, Sam Powell, Dan Sarginson, Kyle Shelford, Jake Shorrocks, Matty Smith, Ryan Sutton, Taulima Tautai, Lewis Tierney, Jack Wells and George Williams.

Hull FC: Jamie Shaul, Mahe Fonua, Carlos Tuimavave, Fetuli Talanoa, Marc Sneyd, Scott Taylor, Danny Houghton, Liam Watts, Gareth Ellis, Mark Minichiello, Jordan Abdull, Jordan Thompson, Dean Hadley, Steve Michaels, Sika Manu, Josh Bowden, Frank Pritchard, Kirk Yeaman and Danny Washbrook.

MATCH DETAILS

Referee: Robert Hicks

Venue: DW Stadium, Wigan

Date/Time: Friday 30th September 2016 – 20:00pm GMT