The newly crowned World Champions get back to Super League action this week when they host Widnes Vikings down at the DW Stadium on Friday night. Wigan will be looking to continue their great run of form, while Widnes will be looking to kick-start their 2017 campaign.
LAST TIME OUT
Wigan go into this game on the back of winning the World Club Challenge 22-6 against the NRL Premiers, Cronulla Sharks. It was a fantastic result for the Warriors, one that put Wigan on top of the World, literally. It was an outstanding performance from Shaun Wane’s men, they showed real guts and determination to win their fourth WCC. They got off to a flying start when Joe Burgess was to score just minutes into his DW return, with an outrageous effort in the corner. Wigan would defend for their lives throughout and the desire to keep Cronulla out was to be admired. Burgess would go over again in the first half to extend Wigan’s lead to 10-0 going into halftime. The second half was a much more open game, even in the bad conditions, the players tried their best to swing the ball about. Wigan would extend their lead to 16-0 through Oliver Gildart, after the young centre would barge his way over. The only disappointment for Wane during this game would be that Wigan conceded a sloppy try, and couldn’t hold the Sharks out, as Jesse Ramien went over for their first and only points of the game. Cronulla pushed for another quick try, but Wigan stood strong to keep the Sharks out. Wigan would wrap the game up on the hooter as Burgess would go over to complete his hat-trick, and seal a fantastic result for the 2017 World Champions.
Widnes go into this game on the back of a 28-16 loss at home, to the hands of 2016 strugglers, Huddersfield Giants. It was a bit of a doom and gloom opener for the Vikings as many thought they had a chance to get their campaign started in the right way with a home win. Especially when their next three games are against sides who finished in the top six last season, one being an away trip to Catalan and another away day to the Challenge Cup winners, Hull FC. It’s a tough start for Dennis Betts and his players, one that would have seemed better if they had got off to a better start against the Giants. It was Widnes who got off to the best start in their opener, when Charly Runciman would go over just four minutes into the game. That’s when it all went wrong. Huddersfield would go on to score 24 unanswered points through tries from Lee Gaskell, Tom Symonds, Aaron Murphy and two from Jermaine McGillvary. If Danny Brough would have had his kicking boots on, the Giants would have been well out of sight. Widnes had a late surge as Stefan Marsh and Rhys Hanbury went over for tries in the last 10 minutes, to reduce Huddersfield’s lead to 24-16 with a few minutes to go. There was not to be a comeback for Widnes, as in the final moments Leroy Cudjoe would finish off the Vikings with a late try to wrap up a 28-16 win.
As we’ve seen already this season, Joe Burgess has come back with a point to prove. He now gets to finally play rugby and do what he does best, score tries. He’s scored four in his first two competitive games this season, and he’s absolutely flying. You’d be a brave man to bet against him scoring first on Friday. He’ll be up against Corey Thompson, which should be an interesting battle. Burgess definitively has the height advantage, but Thompson is a strong winger, so it will be good to see how that one pans out.
So far, this season Wigan have been superb, and that’s mainly come through the new halfback pairing of George Williams and Thomas Leuluai. They’ve been clicking early on, and it’s great to see. Williams has improved so much by the season, and you see this one being a real big one for the young England international. Widnes are struggling for a stable halfback partnership now. In the friendlies, Danny Craven partnered Tom Gilmore, while in the season opener, Chris Bridge came in at stand-off.
The forward pack of Wigan is as strong as ever before. They’ll be looking to continue their dominance this week against a weakened Widnes pack. Vikings look to welcome back Greg Burke and Jack Buchanan, but with them being out for a while, I’m sure it’ll take a bit for them to get back into the swing of things. Wigan will look to win that battle down the middle early on and take control of the game.
Wigan have started the season well with two wins from two, while playing some good rugby. Wane has named the same squad for the third consecutive game and that can only be good news for Wigan. Widnes are still missing several players and struggled in their season opener. Wigan will need to be focused to get the job done here, and I think they’ll see off Widnes comfortably.
Wigan Warriors by 30
Wigan Warriors head coach Shaun Wane:
“We celebrated what was a massive win for the club and enjoyed the night but now it’s back in the grind of Super League and we’ve got a must-win game on Friday against Widnes,”
“I know it’s going to be tough for the players, it’s tough for us as coaches, to change your concentration onto another game. But that’s our challenge.
“This is a mental week for the players, we can’t get them on the field that much.”
“Every single player came up to me in the pub on Sunday night and said they want to play on Friday, nobody wants resting.”
Widnes Vikings head coach Dennis Betts:
“It was an outstanding win for Wigan over the weekend. Both Wigan and Warrington put a real big statement down for the game.”
“You look at the Salford game, they (Wigan) weren’t at their best I thought Salford actually played pretty well. But Wigan were still 20 points up at halftime.”
“We’ve got Burke and Buchanan back. Young lads did well against Huddersfield, I just felt we lacked a bit of quality when we needed it the most.”
“There’s an improvement in us and the lads were disappointed with some of their own performances and the outcome of the game.”
Shaun Wane has stuck with the same 19-man squad for a third successive game, having won the World Club Challenge and previously defeated Salford Red Devils. Shaun Wane suggested that forward Willie Isa would come back into contention after being left out of the match-day 17 for the World Club Challenge.
Dennis Betts has made two changes to the 19-man squad from their season opener against Huddersfield Giants. Jack Buchanan and Jordan Johnstone come into the squad for Ted Chapelhow and Tom Gilmore. After missing out against the Giants, Betts claimed that Greg Burke should be good to go this week against his former club.
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.
Widnes Vikings: Tom Armstrong, Chris Bridge, Jack Buchanan, Greg Burke, Hep Cahill, Jay Chapelhow, Danny Craven, Gil Dudson, Rhys Hanbury, Aaron Heremaia, Chris Houston, Jordan Johnstone, MacGraff Leuluai, Stefan Marsh, Tom Olbison, Charly Runciman, Corey Thompson, Lloyd White and Matt Whitley.
Referee: James Child
Venue: DW Stadium, Wigan
Date/Time: Friday 24th February 2017 – 20:00pm GMT