Leeds Rhinos host the Wigan Warriors in both sides opening Super 8s fixture this Friday night at Headingley Stadium. Wigan have a poor record away to Leeds, only winning twice in their last seven visits. It’s level pegging between the pair in 2017, as both won their home game.

LAST TIME OUT

Leeds Rhinos come into this game on the back of a huge 43-24 defeat to the hands of Hull FC in the Challenge Cup Semi Finals. It was a real close encounter in the first half, as Leeds trailed by just six points at 18-12. The Rhinos took the lead through Ryan Hall, but where soon pegged back by an Albert Kelly try. Hall would get his second juts before Hull hit back with two tries of their own, right before halftime, through Carlos Tuimavave and Chris Green. The second half was complete domination for Hull FC, and a complete write-off for the Rhinos. Tries from Tuimavave, Liam Watts, Jamie Shaul and Scott Taylor just steamrolled Leeds in the second forty. It was a sensational performance from the black and whites, but Rhinos didn’t help themselves at times. Leeds did get two consolation tries in the second half through Kallum Watkins and Ashton Golding. However, it wasn’t enough as they crashed out of the Challenge Cup in disappointing fashion.

Wigan Warriors come into this game on the back of a thrilling 27-14 win against Salford Red Devils in the Challenge Cup Semi Finals. It was a quick start from the Warriors who took an early 12-0 lead after tries from Oliver Gildart and Willie Isa was split by a George Williams penalty. Salford hit back strong, and took the lead at halftime after tries from Greg Johnson, Tyrone McCarthy and a Michael Dobson penalty put them 14-12 up. The second half was all about Wigan, as they would go on to nil Salford and play a superb game. We finally saw the best of Sam Tomkins again, and the utter brilliance of Michael McIlorum throughout the half. After another Williams penalty, McIlorum scored to put Wigan ahead, and then Tomkins would kick a drop-goal to ease the pressure. Wigan would have two players sent to the sin-bin during the game. But ultimately had enough to see it out as a last minute Gildart try put the cherry on top of a superb afternoon for the Warriors.

KEY BATTLES

It’s always a great encounter when they two sides meet, there’s been some absolute classics down the years, which includes a few Grand Finals.

McGuire/Moon vs Williams/Leuluai

This should be fun. This could be Danny McGuire’s last ever match against Wigan Warriors, as a Rhino, and I’m sure he’ll want to go out with a bang. As for Joel Moon, he fell into the scrum-half position by chance, and as taken to it with flying colours, he’s Leeds’ top scorer this season with 15 tries. George Williams and Tommy Leuluai had a blinder last week, and they’re starting to find their top form once again, in a crucial time of the season.

Matt Parcell vs Michael McIlorum

Both players are two of the best in their position. Matt Parcell came into Leeds unknown to many, and he’s taken that No.9 shirt and made it his own, he’s been superb. So far, he’s scored 12 tries and made 11 assists. As for Wigan, the return of Michael McIlorum this year has been welcomed. He’s not really known for his try scoring ability, but helps in so many other ways, and is a real crucial player for this Wigan side.

Forwards

As it stands, it’s set to be a wet and windy night on Friday at Headingley. If that’s the case the forwards will be in for a tough old battle. Leeds have the likes of Adam Cuthbertson, Jamie Jones-Buchanan, Brett Ferres, Mitch Garbutt and Brett Delaney. While Wigan have Taulima Tautai, Ryan Sutton, Tony Clubb, Frank-Paul Nuuausala and John Bateman. They’ll all be key during the game, and they’ll play a big part in their sides success.

PREDICTION

This is going to be a very tough game for both sides. Don’t let the results of last weekend fool you, Leeds will be well up for this game. Wigan must win, where the Rhinos could afford to lose it, but won’t want too. I think the Warriors will continue their form from last week and look to kick-off their Super 8s campaign with a vital win.

Wigan Warriors by 8

PRE-GAME MEDIA

Leeds Rhinos captain Danny McGuire:

“It’s our job to get up for the Super-8s. The intensity was high [in the semi-final] and there was a lot of pressure.

“Sometimes that takes a lot out of you so we’ll have to be smart with what we do in the next few weeks.

“We’ve got to drive on with our Super League form now and make sure we stay in the top-four.”

Wigan Warriors assistant coach John Winder:

“We’re on a level playing field with Leeds, we were both in emotive games last weekend, so they’ll have had a similar preparation to us.

“It’ll be a big game on Friday, they’ll be looking to respond and we’ll be looking to keep building momentum.

“Rob Burrow and Danny McGuire are both iconic players and Leeds will be looking to use that as motivation to send them out on a high.”

SQUAD NEWS

Brian McDermott makes just the one change to the side that lost to Hull FC in last week’s Challenge Cup Semi Final, as Josh Jordan-Roberts is replaced in the squad by Brett Delaney, who’s been out for the last ten games.

Shaun Wane makes two changes from the side that defeated Salford in the Challenge Cup Semi Final with youngsters Jack Wells and Josh Ganson replacing Joel Tomkins and Sam Powell.

SQUADS

Leeds Rhinos: Ashton Golding, Tom Briscoe, Kallum Watkins, Joel Moon, Ryan Hall, Danny McGuire, Matt Parcell, Adam Cuthbertson, Jamie Jones-Buchanan, Carl Ablett, Stevie Ward, Liam Sutcliffe, Brett Delaney, Brad Singleton, Mitch Garbutt, Jimmy Keinhorst, Brett Ferres, Anthony Mullally and Jordan Lilley.

Wigan Warriors: John Bateman, Joe Burgess, Tony Clubb, Tom Davies, Liam Farrell, Josh Ganson, Anthony Gelling, Oliver Gildart, Willie Isa, Thomas Leuluai, Liam Marshall, Michael Mcilorum, Frank-Paul Nuuausala, Sean O’Loughlin, Ryan Sutton, Taulima Tautai, Sam Tomkins, George Williams and Jack Wells.

MATCH DETAILS

Referee: Ben Thaler

Venue: Headingley Stadium, Leeds

Date/Time: Friday 4th August 2017 – 20:00pm BST