Wigan Warriors host the Salford Red Devils in week three of the Super 8s. Wigan got a great win last week to revitalise their fight for the top four. Meanwhile, Salford’s constant struggle to find a win continued, as they made it five disappointing league defeats in a row.     

LAST TIME OUT

Wigan Warriors come into this game on the back of a great 18-4 win against the Huddersfield Giants. It was a wet and windy night in Wigan, and both sides struggled to get any sort of quality attack going. It was a real stop and start game as the referee’s whistle bellowed throughout the night. It was the Giants who took the lead after just 10 minutes as Jermain McGillvary forced his way over – Wigan trailed 4-0. From that point on, Wigan’s defence stayed on top form as Rick Stone’s men wouldn’t score another point. Wigan hit back almost immediately through Anthony Gelling who slid over in the corner – the game was level at 4-4. Wigan would go into halftime 10-4 up as Liam Farrell would get a well deserve try, just before a George Williams penalty sent them into the sheds happy. The second half was more of a struggle as the rain started to pour, but it was Wigan who made it count as following a Sam Powell penalty-goal it was Sam Tomkins who was on the end of a Michael McIlorum kick-through to seal the deal on the hooter as Wigan finished up 16-4 winners, and revitalised their chances of making the top four.

Salford Red Devils come into this game on the back of a disappointing 23-4 home defeat to the Castleford Tigers. Salford are struggling of late, having only won one in their last nine league games – it’s just not been good enough as they’ve fallen well down the league table. It was always going to be a tough game against the current best side in the league, but at home, you expect a bit more fight than they shown. The Tigers raced into the lead following a Zak Hardaker try and led 6-0 after just seven minutes. In the 27th minute, Hardaker got his second as Castleford doubled their lead. It had been a solid performance from the Tigers, who weren’t troubled much by a lacklustre Red Devils attack. However, right at the start of the second half, Salford got a try back through Manu Vatuvei to give them a little bit of hope – Salford still trailed 12-4. That hope didn’t last long as on the hour mark, Paul McShane sold Salford a dummy and eased over for just his third try of the season. Then, following a Jy Hitchcox try, Luke Gale would seal the deal and put the cherry and the top with a drop-goal that finished off a comfortable 23-4 win for the league leaders.

KEY BATTLES

This is a big game for both sides, as they don’t want to lose any more ground on the top four, as the games come quick and fast between now and the play-offs in September.

Liam Marshall vs Manu Vatuvei

With the injured Tom Davies out this week, it seems Liam Marshall will be thrown back into the squad, having missed the last few games. He’ll come up against a new winger in Manu Vatuvei, who’s built like a brick wall. He played well in his debut against Wigan in the cup a few weeks back and has since gone on to score a few tries. Marshall will have a tough re-introduction to the side, and will have to be on his game to stop the big man.

George Williams vs Robert Lui

These two are by far the most creative and dangerous players in both sides. Most of their tries come from the play of these two stand-offs, they’re brilliant to watch when they’re in full flow. Between them, they’ve scored 15 tries and got 47 assists, it’s quite incredible. They’ll be the key to their sides success in this game, and with their partnerships in the halves, it’ll be a very interesting watch on Friday.

Forwards

This should be a bone-crunching affair on Friday. Both sides have huge packs with the likes of Tony Clubb, Ryan Sutton, Taulima Tautai and Frank-Paul Nuuausala going up against Adam Walne, Weller Hauraki, George Griffin and Craig Kopczak. The forecast is rain on Friday in Wigan, so it’ll be a played in tough conditions and the forwards will have to be a lot smarter when carrying the ball.

PREDICTIONS

This time last week, Wigan’s top four chances were all but over. However, one week on, and it’s back on, with them being just three points behind fourth place. Meanwhile, Salford are without a win in their last five league games. This is a huge game for both as they look to make back ground on the top four.

Wigan Warriors by 16

PRE-GAME MEDIA

Wigan Warriors head coach Shaun Wane:

“We’re a repetition team and we need to practice good things and that’s what we’ll be aiming to do this week. We’ll show them a lot of respect.

“Salford are a very good team, they’ll be full on and desperate to get their season going again. They’ve been very good this year.

“They’re just not finding that bit of luck that you need at the minute. They’ll get a win again soon, we just need to makesure its not against us.”

Salford Red Devils head coach Ian Watson:

“We’re really pleased with where some of them have got to, but you need to have a pride in what you do and finishing the season strongly will show what pride we have.

“This is the big lesson for our group and for me as a coach. We’ve put ourselves in a really good position now but what counts is what we do from here.

“This journey we are on is brilliant for us moving forward, but every week we need to make sure we compete. We don’t want this season to just fizzle out.”

SQUAD NEWS

Wigan Warriors coach Shaun Wane makes just the one change to the side that beat Huddersfield Giants last week, with Nick Gregson coming in for the injured Tom Davies.

Salford coach Ian Watson makes two changes to the side that lost to Castleford last week, with Junior Sa’u and Jordan Walne coming in for Ben Murdoch-Masila and Daniel Murray.

SQUADS

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

Salford Red Devils: Jake Bibby, Kriss Brining, Todd Carney, Niall Evalds, George Griffin, Weller Hauraki, Gregory Johnson, Josh Jones, Craig Kopczak, Olsi Krasniqi, Ryan Lannon, Robert Lui, Tyrone McCarthy, Gareth O’Brien, Junior Sa’u, Logan Tomkins, Manu Vatuvei, Adam Walne and Jordan Walne.

MATCH DETAILS

Referee: Chris Kendall

Venue: DW Stadium, Wigan

Date/Time: Friday 18th August 2017 – 20:00pm BST