Wigan could secure 2nd place with a win over Warrington. Here’s everything you need to know…
Wigan’s head coach Shaun Wane has made two changes to the 19-man side that went on to defeat Wakefield Trinity last week. Joe Greenwood is out due to a one match suspension, and captain Sean O’Loughlin is out with a calf injury. They are replaced by Tauilma Tautai and Liam Paisley.
Wigan’s injury issues continue with five players currently on the sidelines. Hankinson, Marshall and Farrell as well as the aforementioned O’Loughlin. Joe Burgess is out for the season with a knee injury.
Wigan 19-man squad: Tomkins, Davies, Sarginson, Gildart, Williams, Powell, Clubb, Leuluai, Flower, Bateman, Sutton, Tautai, Isa, Escare, Manfredi, Navarrette, Hamlin, Partington, Paisley.
The Wire have named three changes to the side that narrowly defeated Huddersfield 26-24 last week. Mike Cooper will sit out of this game after being suspended while Tyrone Roberts and Chris Hill are both being rested in preparation for the playoffs. Veteran Ben Westwood comes back into the mix for the Wire alongside youngster Pat Moran. Luis Johnson could also play against Wigan in what will be his senior debut.
However, Warrington’s injury list is ever-increasing. Ben Murdoch-Masila was seen on crutches so may be out for the next few weeks and Akauola is still recovering from a sternum injury.
Warrington 19-man squad: Ratchford, Lineham, Goodwin, Atkins, K. Brown, Clark, Hughes, Patton, Philbin, T. King, G. King, Livett, Smith, L. Johnson, Moran, Charnley, Pomeroy, Thompson, Westwood.
Wigan and Warrington have placed each other four times this year with each side winning two games.
Warrington defeated Wigan early on in Round 4 16-10 at the HJ. Atkins and Lineham crossed over for the Wire with Goodwin converting 4 times while Wigan went over with winger Liam Marshall and Tony Clubb but Tomkins’ only converted one.
Magic Weekend was the next time these two sides played each other and it went all Wigan’s way. Wigan dominated Warrington by scoring six tries (Powell, Tomkins, Bateman, Williams, Marshall, Davies) compared to Warrington’s two (Livett, Lineham). Wigan won 38-10 in the end.
A return fixture was just two weeks away but it was in the Challenge Cup. This time, it was Warrington who dominated the Warriors. Warrington scored four tries, including one from Josh Charnley, and the Warriors were left scoreless for the first time in a while.
Their last meeting was in Round 20 and took place at the DW Stadium. It was Warrington’s poor goal kicking that cost them on this day. Wigan scored two tries compared to Warrington’s three but no goal kicker could convert for the Wire. However, it was a Josh Woods drop goal on the 79th minute which gave the Warriors two vital points.
Warrington are going to need a first-class performance on Friday to come away with two points, especially with six first-teamers out. Wigan has only lost once all season at the DW and this was against first-placed St Helens.
Can Warrington turn up the heat on Friday or will it be the Warriors who triumph?
KEY BATTLE – Tom Davies vs Tom Lineham
It’s safe to say that both teams are lacking in terms of forwards. Warrington are missing the likes of Murdoch-Masila and Cooper whereas Wigan are without Greenwood and O’Loughlin. Personally, I think this game could be decided on the edges and it’s likely that Tom Lineham and Tom Davies will both be playing on their respective team’s left-wing.
Davies is a deadly player on the ball. He has made almost 700 more metres than anyone else on his side and at an average gain of nearly nine metres, he is difficult to stop anywhere on the field. Davies is also fantastic from the play-the-ball with 55 runs from dummy half and he has 26 clean breaks to go along with this. Warrington also need to be careful of his try-scoring prowess with 12 tries.
Lineham is just as deadly on the ball as Davies. Despite making 400 fewer metres than Davies this year, Lineham can burst through defensive lines and easily outpace the majority of players in any team. He has done this well this year with 65 tackle busts. Wigan needs to be careful of Lineham’s inventive plays as well as he has offloaded the ball 36 times to his teammates. However, Lineham is also dangerous close to the line and has gone over for 16 tries this year as well as 5 assists.
There are also other rapid players likely to play on Friday including the likes of Dom Manfredi (Wigan), Josh Charnley (Warrington) and Morgan Escare (Wigan) so both sides are going to have to show quick line speeds in order to prevent any player, especially these 3 from crossing over the line.
KEY BATTLE – Sam Tomkins vs Stefan Ratchford
On Friday, the majority of 5th tackle plays will involve a kick into open play meaning that both of these men will be busy catching the rugby ball. Also, both of these players will need to be involved in their own team’s attacking situations, receiving the ball when necessary.
Tomkins is having one of his best seasons to date and his teammates will be looking to give him the ball throughout this week’s clash. Tomkins is crucial in attack as he’s put forward 90 attacking kicks for his teammates. However, Tomkins can also be dangerous throughout as he’s assisted in 17 tries this season and bagged 10 of his own. Sam also has a solid conversion rate this season converting 88/118. Finally, Warrington are going to have to be incredibly careful as should this Friday’s fixture come ‘down to the Wire’, Tomkins has kicked 4 field goals this year.
His opposite number is Stefan Ratchford who has consistently fantastic all-year-long in his fullback role. Alike with Tomkins, Ratchford is a danger in attack. He has an 8.22 average metre gain, 3 metres more than Tomkins, and has run over 3100 metres all year. This, along with 94 tackle busts, makes Stefan a target. Wigan will need to watch out for his deadly passes near the line as Ratchford has assisted 19 tries for the Wire and scored 13 himself. Warrington have been struggling to find a consistent goal kicker all-season but with Roberts being rested, Ratchford is likely to take kicking duties and with a 75% conversion rate this season, this game could be closer than people expect.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: 14th September 2018
Venue: DW Stadium, Wigan
Referee: Robert Hicks