It will be the clash of the champions this Friday night, as the current Super League and World Champions, Wigan Warriors host Challenge Cup winners, Hull FC down at the DW. In the five times that they played each other last season, Wigan got the better of Hull, winning three games to their two.

LAST TIME OUT

Wigan go into this game on the back of a struggling 16-16 draw with Huddersfield Giants. They gained a tough point, a point that sent them top of Super League, following Salford’s win over Castleford. The game itself was the worst of the season so far, it was boring, flat and just downright dull. It was cluttered with handling errors, forward passes and countless penalties. Huddersfield got off to a great start when a Jermain McGillvary interception put them in the positon to score the opening try, through Lee Gaskell. Wigan responded well, when Morgan Escaré went over for his first Super League try for Wigan, to level the game at 6-6. Giants would retake the lead when Darnell McIntosh walked in for an easy try. Yet again, Wigan responded well, and young Tom Davies would score on his debut, with a flying finish in the corner. Danny Brough kicked a penalty near halftime and sent Huddersfield 14-10 up into the break. The second half was just as poor, and Wigan just couldn’t get going. They did however score an early try through Anthony Gelling, which levelled the game at 14-14. Two penalty-goals from Brough and Escaré made it 16-16 and then both teams missed chances to win with failed drop-goal attempts. In all fairness, no one deserved to win this game, and while it was a poor performance from Wigan, it was one in which kept them undefeated and sent them top of the league.

Hull go into this game on the back of a comfortable 32-12 win over Widnes Vikings. Hull have started well to the season, winning four of their five games so far, without playing their best stuff. Winless Widnes got off to a great start when Aaron Heremaia would go over for the games first try. Minutes later, Hull were level when Albert Kelly went over for his fifth try of the season, to level the game at 6-6. Then after a long battle, FC took the lead when Mahe Fonua went over for his first try of the campaign. Sneyd converted the try and then on the hooter would kick a penalty goal to send Hull into halftime 14-6 up. In the second half, Hull would show their quality and class to see off a struggling Widnes. Danny Houghton got on the scoresheet early in the second half, then Jamie Shaul finished off a great move to put the game beyond Widnes. Sneyd would convert both tries and take a 26-6 lead, a margin that seemed to be enough for the two-points. Albert Kelly went over for his second try of the game to really seal the deal. On a side note, Kelly has been a real dynamite signing for FC this season, maybe the best signing of the off-season, already proving his worth, having scored six tires and assisted two. Lloyd White would go over for a late consolation try for Widnes, but it was too little too late, as Hull would run away as 32-12 winners.

KEY BATTLES

This game looks set to be the host of the two best half-back pairings in the league. George Williams and Tommy Leuluai will go up against Marc Sneyd and Albert Kelly this Friday night, and it should be a great contest, between two newly founded pairings. The Wigan pair have been directly involved in 10 tries, while the Hull halves have been involved in 15. If they’re both on form, it should be a real exciting game of rugby. There is lots of danger through all four players, and most of the tries will come through their play.

The battle between the two hookers will be immense. Danny Houghton and Sam Powell finished last season as the top two tacklers in the league, and are both on top form again this season, Houghton leading the way already. Both players are not only great in defence, but a real danger in attack. With Houghton’s quick thinking from dummy half and Powell’s ability to create something from nothing, it’ll be great watching the two workhorses of the team go at it.

Finally, the battle of the full-backs. Escaré has become a superb player for Wigan already, he’s proved to be one of the best signings in the off-season. On the other side, there’s Jamie Shaul, who had an absolute belting season in 2016, topping it off by getting in the Super League dream team. Escaré is such a dangerous player, and has created some quite stunning tries this season. Both players will be under pressure all night with Sneyd and Leuluai’s kicks, and they’ll play a huge part in the result of this game.

 PREDICTION

This should be a good game. Both sides are playing well, having won four of their five opening games. Wigan just about had the best of Hull last season, having won three of the five matches they played in. Wigan will be looking to bounce back from a disappointing performance last week, and I think they’ll just about have enough to see off Hull.

Wigan Warriors by 8

 PRE-GAME MEDIA

Wigan Warriors assistant coach John Wilder:

“They’re a good team, they’ve started where they left off. The new combination of Sneyd and Kelly is working well for them.”

“I thought they had a good performance against Widnes on the weekend, so it’s going to be a tough challenge, but one were excited by.”

“I don’t think you can get much bigger than Challenge Cup winners, against Super League champions, so it should be a great game.”

Hull FC prop forward Scott Taylor:

“I can’t wait for the game on Friday night. Obviously, they’re my old team and when the fixtures come out, I used to look to see when the derby was.”

“But unfortunately, that’s lost now this season. The next thing was Wigan and that was the first game I looked for this year.

“They’ve been doing well recently and so have we, so it should be a really good game on Friday night.”

 SQUAD NEWS

With none of the previously injured players ready to return, and Sean O’Loughlin and Jack Wells picking up knocks last week, Wane turns to academy trio Nick Gregson, Josh Ganson and Callum Field. Gregson made his return from a long-term injury last week for the reserves. Ganson and Field have both also appeared for the reserves this year but are yet to make a first team appearance.

Carlos Tuimavave, who has played in all five of Hull’s games this year, has been ruled out with an ankle problem whilst Fetuli Talanoa, who missed last week’s win over Widnes Vikings, is ruled out through concussion again. Young forward Brad Fash has been called into the 19-man squad for the first time this season and there are places for Masi Matongo and Jack Downs.

SQUADS

Wigan Warriors: Joe Bretherton, Tony Clubb, Tom Davies, Morgan Escaré, Callum Field, Ben Flower, Liam Forsyth, Josh Ganson, Anthony Gelling, Nick Gregson, Willie Isa, Thomas Leuluai, Liam Marshall, Romain Navarrete, Frank-Paul Nuuausala, Sam Powell, Taulima Tautai, Joel Tomkins, & George Williams.

Hull FC: Jamie Shaul Mahe Fonua, Josh Griffin, Albert Kelly, Marc Sneyd, Scott Taylor, Danny Houghton, Mark Minichiello, Gareth Ellis, Jake Connor, Chris Green, Jordan Thompson, Danny Washbrook, Steve Michaels, Sika Manu, Josh Bowden, Jack Downs, Brad Fash and Masi Matongo

 MATCH DETAILS

Referee: Phil Bentham

Venue: DW Stadium, Wigan

Date/Time: Friday 24th March 2017 – 20:00pm GMT