Wigan Warriors and Hull FC will compete in the first ever Super League fixture played in Australia. They both faced each other in the 2017 Challenge Cup Final – and now, they take centre stage at WIN Stadium, where they will also be playing for the Kenny Sterling Shield.
The betting odds have the Warriors as slight favourites for this clash, and below we have a full preview of this history making fixture.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
Wigan enter this game on the back of a superb 40-12 win away to Salford Red Devils on the opening weekend of the 2018 campaign. It was a great, morale boosting win for the Warriors, one that would have made their trip to Australia that bit easier. Wigan took a slender 10-6 lead into halftime after tries from Tom Davies and Oliver Gildart cut-out Kris Welham’s opener. Both sides made a good start, playing some fast-paced rugby, something that Salford couldn’t keep up in the second half.
As the second half started, Wigan stepped it up a notch, and would do so with the help of the returning Frenchman Morgan Escare. Having not played since last May, he returned with a try as he scored Wigan’s first of five second-half tries. Liam Marshall would get a brace, and that was followed by efforts from Gildart and an unlikely hero in Tony Clubb. Niall Evalds scored late for Salford, but Wigan ran out comfortable 40-12 winners and opened their 2018 season with a bang.
Hull FC come into this game following a solid 38-12 win against Huddersfield Giants. It was a tough game for the black and whites to start with, and they struggled to get any sort of rhythm going in front of their home fans. It was the Giants who took a 12-10 lead into the second period, after tries from Ryan Hinchcliffe and Ukuma Ta’ai sandwiched efforts from Marc Sneyd and the very impressive Albert Kelly. Giants looked good for their lead, and FC needed to wake up for the second half.
Wake up they did, as they ran in for 28-unanswered points to make light work of Rick Stones men. It was a brutal second half performance, one that would have given them a boost heading to Australia this week. Their five second-half tries came from Jake Connor, Jamie Shaul and a hat-trick from Fetuli Talanoa. They certainly picked up the pace in the second forty, and looked more the side we’ve seen for the past two years in the Super League and as back-to-back Challenge Cup winners.
After missing last week’s opener against Salford Red Devils, both Sean O’Loughlin (calf) and Joe Burgess (thigh) are available following their respective injuries. The pair replace Gabe Hamlin and Liam Forsyth in the Wigan squad. John Bateman (finger) is still ruled out.
Liam Watts returns to the 19 man squad having missed Thursday’s victory over Huddersfield Giants. The prop forward could make his first appearance of the season against the Warriors on Saturday. He’s the only change to Radford’s 19-man squad, replacing fellow front-rower Brad Fash.
The pair met four times in 2017, with Hull FC getting the upper hand on three occasions. Hull would actually go on to win the opening three games of their four meetings, the third being the Challenge Cup Final at Wembley. Wigan got some sort of revenge in the Super 8s, beating the black and whites on their own patch. But it wasn’t enough for the cherry and whites to go any further that season. Shaun Wane and his players will be looking to exact more revenge on FC this time out. It’s always a high scoring game when these two meet. You only have to add up the amount of points they scored in their four meeting last year (191) to see that they put out some great contests.
It was clear to see after round one that both sides have some quality in the backs. Sam Tomkins, Morgan Escare and George Williams all shone for Wigan – as did Albert Kelly, Jamie Shaul and Marc Sneyd for the black and whites. That is where the game will be won on Saturday morning. It will be strange for both sets of sides, playing a league game on a new pitch, in another country, and not in front of as many of their own fans. Wigan got better as Escare came on and they moved Sam into the halves, and that’s where Hull have to be careful this week. As for Wigan, they know the threat of Hull, and just how quickly a player like Kelly can change a game.
Wigan Warriors captain Sean O’Loughlin has commented on the game, insisting his club are there to pick up two points and not to put on a show. Meanwhile, his opposing skipper Danny Houghton is calling for their dedicated supporters who have made the trip to make them feel at home with a big atmosphere.
Wigan and Hull met four times in 2017 – with the black and whites winning three of the four.
WIGAN WARRIORS 19-man squad
Joe Burgess, Tony Clubb, Tom Davies, Morgan Escaré, Liam Farrell, Ben Flower, Oliver Gildart, Willie Isa, Tommy Leuluai, Liam Marshall, Frank-Paul Nuuausala, Sean O’Loughlin, Sam Powell, Dan Sarginson, Ryan Sutton, Taulima Tautai, Joel Tomkins, Sam Tomkins and George Williams
HULL FC 19-man squad
Jamie Shaul, Bureta Faraimo, Josh Griffin,Fetuli Talanoa, Albert KellyMarc Sneyd, Scott Taylor, Danny Houghton, Liam Watts, Dean Hadley, Mark Minichiello, Josh Bowden, Jake Connor, Jordan Abdull, Danny Washbrook, Sika Manu, Mickey Paea, Jansin Turgut and Masimbaashe Matongo
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: 10th February 2018
Venue: WIN Stadium, Wollongong
Kick-off: 8:45am (GMT)
Referee: Matt Cecchin (NRL Referee)
WHO WILL WIN?
This should be a good game, with both sides having great results in round one. Both will want to win this with the world watching – but I’m going for Wigan to just edge it.
Wigan Warriors by 10