Warrington Wolves host Wigan Warriors down at the Halliwell Jones Stadium this Thursday, in what is a rematch of the 2016 Grand Final. It’s a must win for Tony Smith’s men who go into this game, bottom of the league, having lost three from three. While Wigan sit second, having won all three of their league games this season. 

 LAST TIME OUT

Wigan go into this game on the back of a 20-0 win against local rivals Leigh Centurions. It was a wet, cold and windy night at the DW Stadium, and the players struggled to get the game going. It wasn’t the greatest of games, but entertaining nonetheless. The first half didn’t really impress, as it was cluttered with handling errors and scrums. Wigan did manage to get an early lead, when George Williams’ clever kick was pounced on by Lewis Tierney, who found Willie Isa, who then sent Anthony Gelling under the sticks to give Wigan a 6-0 lead. That was how it would stay until halftime, with nothing much else to report, except a bit of biff between the players. The pitch dried up in the second half and Wigan started to take control of the game. They would go on to score another two tries through Williams and Gelling, and a penalty goal from Escaré wrapped up a super 20-0 win for Wigan, who are now three wins from three this season, having also won the World Club Challenge on top of them wins.

Warrington go into this game on the back of a disappointing 24-14 loss, away at Salford Red Devils. It’s been a horror start to the season for Tony Smith, as his Warrington Wolves are currently sat bottom of the league having lost all three league games so far. Junior Sa’u got Salford off to a god start after opening the score just four minutes into the match. The match was even for the opening 20 minutes, and Warrington finally levelled the match up when Declan Patton weaved through the Red Devils defence. A George Griffin try for Salford was cancelled out by Jack Hughes who’s try gave Warrington a 10-8 halftime lead. Minutes into the second half, Salford took the lead for the third time through Kriss Brinning. However, Jack Johnson levelled the game up, in what was a game of, you score, we score. A second try from Junior Sa’u and two penalty goals from Dobson, sealed a superb 24-14 win for Salford, and just piled the pressure on Tony Smith and his players.

 KEY BATTLES

Wigan may be missing their starting wingers, but it should be a real exciting night for the Warriors fans. They will get to see a couple of young lads out there, with Liam Marshall, Liam Forsyth and Tom Davies the three wingers in contention. It could be a big night for these three young Warriors. They’ll have tough battles up against the experienced Warrington centres, in Atkins and Evans, it should be a real fun watch.

Wigan’s forward pack have been tremendous so far this season. They have really given in some tough shifts to help Shaun Wane’s men get over the line in those tight games. Even with Sutton missing this week, they have the chance to bring in Bretherton and Wells, two young lads who Wane knows can come in and do a job. They’ll be coming up against a huge Warrington pack, and even with the likes of Chris Hill and Dom Crosby missing, they still have enough in them to trouble Wigan.

With Kurt Gidley expected to continue his role at full-back, in the absence of Stefan Ratchford, it should be a great battle between him and Escaré. The French international has had a real explosive start to the season, having impressed in all four of his starts. He’s been real influential from deep and looked confident on the ball. Gidley is a proven international, and is always a danger for Warrington. Both players will play a big part in this game, and their involvement could be key to the final outcome.

 PREDICTION

Both sides are missing key players, and I wouldn’t read too much into the starts to the season of either. Warrington always turn up against Wigan, and it should be a great game. Wire are still searching for their first win, and that will be in the minds of the players, I think it’ll be a tight game, with Wigan taking the spoils.

Wigan Warriors by 8.

 PRE-GAME MEDIA

Wigan Warriors head coach Shaun Wane:

“We’ve a few missing so we’ll bring a few kids in with Jack Wells and Liam Forsyth set to get a chance. No one is stressed here, it’s just one of those things. It’s a tough place to be but other clubs will be going through the same.”

“Warrington are a good team and can turn it around at any point. We’re expecting a real battle. We’re four and none but there’s lots of games to be played.”

“They’ve got a real good roster of players and they’re far too good for where they are at the moment.”

Warrington Wolves prop Ashton Sims:

“I think we put pressure on ourselves more than anyone. We had such a good, if not a great, year last year and we as players all want to go one better.”

“There’s no panic, we know what we’re doing as in shooting ourselves in the foot with some stuff in the game.”

“That’s full credit to Tony Smith and the coaches. It’s not the start we wanted but we know what we can do and we’ve already shown that against one of the NRL teams.”

 SQUAD NEWS

Jake Shorrocks, John Bateman and Oliver Gildart remain sidelined with Sam Tomkins, Connor Farrell, Michael McIlorum and Dom Manfredi all long-term injuries. Liam Marshall, debutant last week, looks set to keep his place on the wing with Liam Forsyth, Tom Davies, Romain Navarrete and Jack Wells in contention to make an appearance.

Warrington make just one change to the 19-man squad that faced Salford last week, with Joe Philbin coming in for former Warrior, Dominic Crosby. Tony Smith is also waiting for the returns of Stefan Ratchford, Ben Currie, Chris Hill, Kevin Penny, Toby King and George King. Who are all still sidelined with injuries.

SQUADS

Wigan Warriors: Joe Bretherton, Tony Clubb, Tom Davies, Morgan Escaré, Liam Farrell, Ben Flower, Liam Forsyth, Anthony Gelling, Willie Isa, Thomas Leuluai, Liam Marshall, Romain Navarette, Frank-Paul Nuuausala, Sean O’Loughlin, Sam Powell, Taulima Tautai, Joel Tomkins, Jack Wells and George Williams.

Warrington Wolves: Ryan Atkins, Matty Blythe, Kevin Brown, Daryl Clark, Mike Cooper, Brad Dwyer, Rhys Evans, Kurt Gidley, Jack Hughes, Jack Johnson, Tom Lineham, Harvey Livett, Declan Patton, Joe Philbin, Matty Russell, Andre Savelio, Ashton Sims, Joe Westerman and Ben Westwood.

MATCH DETAILS 

Referee: Ben Thaler

Venue: Halliwell Jones Stadium, Warrington

Date/Time: Thursday 9th March 2017 – 20:00pm GMT