This weekend’s sole Sunday fixture sees Wigan host Hull FC. Here’s everything you need to know.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
Wigan began the season trailing everybody after a 2 point deduction for breaching the salary cap, so currently they sit 10th with zero points after one win in their opening two: a derby day defeat away at St Helens was followed by a comfortable home victory against the Leeds Rhinos. Wigan, unlike their opposition, did have a match last week as they were beaten by Sydney Roosters in the World Club Challenge.
Hull have had a poor start to the season with back-to-back defeats which have followed 11 straight losses, a run stretching back to July. Just like Wigan, Hull lost their derby match at the start of the season as Jimmy Keinhorst scored on the final play of the match to give Hull KR the win. This was followed by an eight point defeat to Castleford. They seem to have improved since 2018 and look close to getting those first two points on the board.
Adrian Lam makes two changes to the side who lost to Sydney last weekend. Liam Farrell is missing after suffering a pectoral injury and will be out for around four months. Forward Tony Clubb is rested.
Jarrod Sammut and Liam Byrne both come into the squad and will be looking to make their debuts if they are picked in the matchday squad.
Wigan Warriors 19-man squad:
Joe Bullock, Liam Byrne, Tom Davies, Morgan Escaré, Ben Flower, Oliver Gildart, Joe Greenwood, Gabe Hamlin, Zak Hardaker, Willie Isa, Tommy Leuluai, Liam Marshall, Romain Navarrete, Sean O’Loughlin, Sam Powell, Jarrod Sammut, Dan Sarginson, Taulima Tautai, George Williams
Lee Radford makes a few changes for the fixture with the most notable being the inclusion of Gareth Ellis. Ellis retired back in 2017, but he did feature for the reserve side last weekend. Also winger Ratu Naulago is named in the side after signing a one-year contract due to a successful trial period, including a hat-trick for the reserve side last week. Hull are without nine first team players including Scott Taylor who picked up a three game suspension, so he won’t face his former club.
If 37-year old Gareth Ellis makes an appearance, it will be his 100th for Hull FC. Also, both Ratu Naulago and Danny Langtree would be making their debuts if selected by Lee Radford.
Hull FC 19-man squad:
Jamie Shaul, Bureta Faraimo, Carlos Tuimavave, Josh Griffin, Marc Sneyd, Danny Houghton, Dean Hadley, Mark Minichello, Joe Westerman, Jake Connor, Jordan Thompson, Masi Matongo, Sika Manu, Jordan Lane, Mickey Paea, Danny Langtree, Jez Litten, Ratu Naulago, Gareth Ellis.
HEAD TO HEAD
Wigan have won their last four meetings against the Black and Whites, with Hull’s last victory against the Warriors being the 2017 Challenge Cup Final.
Meetings have been fairly close with six of the last 10 being decided by only six points or less and the majority of those neither side have surpassed the 20 point mark.
Zak Hardaker (Wigan) v Jamie Shaul (Hull FC)
The fullback duel could be pivotal to this contest. Zak Hardaker hasn’t been the same type of player as he previously was, but he’s still one of the best fullbacks in the competition. Hardaker often threatens defences when attacking usually on the fringes and he is also able to relieve pressure on George Williams and Thomas Leului with his kicking game.
On the opposite side, Jamie Shaul impressed against Castleford, despite being on the losing side. Shaul is often key for Hull as he is always around the ball carrier, looking for the offload in a break situation. The Hull fullback has previously impressed away at the DW Stadium and will be looking for similar on Sunday. Neither player has scored so far this season.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Sunday 24 February
Venue: DW Stadium
Referee: Ben Thaler
WHO WILL WIN?
Wigan have looked like one of the stronger sides and are very much in a false position at this early stage. Hull did look to be improving when they faced Castleford and they’ve lacked direction and leadership for a while. The introduction of Gareth Ellis should nullify that but I still think it will be an extremely hard task. Wigan will be victorious as they look to have a strong side and can exploit poor defence anywhere on the pitch.