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SUPER LEAGUE PREVIEW: Salford Red Devils vs Wigan Warriors

Last season, Salford Red Devils escaped relegation by the skin of their teeth. They have been rewarded with a season opening game against the 2016 Super League Champions, Wigan Warriors. Both sides will be looking to get off to a good start after the two had jubilant ends to their respective 2016 campaigns.

 HOW PRE-SEASON WENT

Salford enjoyed a great pre-season, winning three from three. First, they came up against Championship newcomers, Rochdale Hornets. Red Devils would show their experience and quality and run away comfortable 44-18 winners. Next up was Halifax at Shay Stadium. This would prove to be a tough affair for Ian Watson’s men as they narrowly beat the Championship outfit 13-6. Their third and final friendly was to come at home to the 2016 Challenge Cup winners, Hull FC. They would end on a high, by beating the black and whites 18-6, to round off a good pre-season.

Wigan had a painful start to their pre-season with a 50-10 hammering away to Super League newboys, Leigh Centurions. While Wigan had a few young guns out there, it was still a disappointing day for Shaun Wane’s men, and not a great watch for the cherry and white fans, on what was a cold afternoon in Leigh. They would end their short pre-season on a high, after a week of warm weather training in the South of France, they would beat Catalan Dragons 26-22 in what was a real competitive friendly that would send Wigan into the new season on a bit of a high.

 KEY BATTLES

This should be an interesting game with so many debutants in both sides. Whether they are making their debut, or returning to the side after a little break away. I can’t wait to see how Escaré does in his Wigan debut. With the absence of Sam Tomkins, the French international will be the stand-in fullback, and he’ll be looking to make an early impression with his quick feet and his solid kicking game. Escaré is no stranger to the Super League and Saturday’s opponents, but it is always difficult playing in a new side. I think his battle against the Salford defence will be interesting. He’s got quick feet, and can create something out of nothing. So with Williams and Leuluai in the halves, taking most of Salford’s attention, Escaré could be a real secret weapon for Wigan.

There are some big guys in the forward packs of both teams. Lee Mossop looks to make his debut for Salford against his former side, and he will be looking to show Shaun Wane what he lost out on. Also, the retuning Lama Tasi, George Griffin and Ben Murdoch-Masila will be up for the game and looking to keep Wigan quiet. However, that won’t be an easy task for the Red Devils, and they will need to start well early on to stand any chance. For Wigan, Frank Paul-Nuuausala, Ben Flower, Tony Clubb, Taulima Tautai and Willie Isa will be a tough force to stop. I think the battle in the middles will be key to this game, and whoever gains control of the ruck speed and the game will ultimately get a huge advantage.

 PREDICTION

The reigning and defending Super League Champions will be looking to start their 2017 campaign off with a bang. Also, with the World Club Challenge to come next week, they will want to go into that game on the back of a win. Wigan have a very strong squad and I feel they’ll have too much for Salford.

Wigan Warriors by 18.

 PRE-GAME MEDIA

Salford Red Devils head coach Ian Watson:

“Kicking off the league season at home against the champions will hopefully bring in a big crowd to cheer us to a victory. We’re confident that with our best performance that we can get a result.”

“They’re a great club and I like the way Shaun Wane worked last year putting the young lads in, he got them together and won the Grand Final.

“They might not have great form from pre-season but they’re champion players who will turn up.

Credit to BBC Sport: http://www.bbc.com/sport/rugby-league/38897043

Wigan Warriors head coach Shaun Wane:

“I was ready for games after about three weeks of last season [ending], I got a bit bored.

“We’re ready, we’ve had a good pre-season, the players are ready and we couldn’t have asked for a tougher game than Salford.

“We like being champions but it makes every game a really tough game for us.”

Credit to BBC Sport: http://www.bbc.com/sport/rugby-league/38897043 

 SQUAD NEWS

Lee Mossop could face his former club for the first time after joining Salford in November. Lama Tasi has returned from St Helens while Kris Welham and Kris Brining are all expected to make their debuts after being included.

Morgan Escaré is set to make his debut for Wigan, while Joe Burgess and Thomas Leuluai make their return to the club. Tony Clubb has been passed fit and no doubt relishing the opportunity to get back on the pitch.

19-MAN SQUADS

Salford Red Devils: Kriss Brining, Justin Carney, Michael Dobson, Niall Evalds, Mark Flanagan, George Griffin, Greg Johnson, Craig Kopczak, Olsi Krasniqi, Ryan Lannon, Rob Lui, Lee Mossop, Gareth O’Brien, Junior Sa’u, Lama Tasi, Adam Walne, Jordan Walne, Kris Welham and Josh Wood.

Wigan Warriors: John Bateman, Joe Burgess, Tony Clubb, Morgan Escaré, Liam Farrell, Ben Flower, Anthony Gelling, Oliver Gildart, Willie Isa, Thomas Leuluai, Liam Marshall, Frank-Paul Nuuausala, Sean O’Loughlin, Sam Powell, Ryan Sutton, Taulima Tautai, Lewis Tierney, Joel Tomkins and George Williams.

MATCH DETAILS 

Referee: Ben Thaler

Venue: AJ Bell Stadium

Date/Time: Saturday 11th February – 13:15pm GMT

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