Aaron Sutcliffe previews the 2020 Super League Grand Final between local rivals Wigan Warriors and St Helens to be played at the KCOM Stadium in Hull. This is what we have to look forward to.
The Warriors are on a five-game winning run, including victory against the Saints a month back. They’ve looked imperious defensively, conceding just 14 points across their last three outings.
Adrian Lam’s side battled their way past Hull FC last week to reach the Grand Final for the third time in five years, and are aiming to win the competition for a sixth time this Friday night.
Saints returned to winning ways in their semi-final win against Catalans after losing their previous two matches, booking their place in the Grand Final.
Kristian Woolf is hoping his side can retain their title, to move level with Leeds Rhinos on eight Grand Final wins should they defeat the Warriors at the KCOM.
Wigan are boosted by the return of influential hooker Sam Powell, and second-row forward Joe Greenwood who started his career at Saints.
Amir Bourouh drops out of the squad and Ben Flower, infamously sent off in the 2014 Grand Final, missed selection with a hamstring injury.
The game will also be Warriors captain Sean O’Loughlin’s final match before retiring, bringing an end to an illustrious 18-year career.
Wigan squad: Hardaker, Hankinson, Gildart, J. Burgess, French, Leuluai, Clubb, Powell, G. Burgess, Isa, Farrell, O’Loughlin, Greenwood, Smithies, Partington, Bullock, Byrne, Bibby, Smith, Hastings, Singleton.
St Helens name an unchanged 21-man squad from the side that beat Catalans’ last week. Alex Walmsley in-line to make his 200th appearance in a Saints jersey.
It will be the final game for Zeb Taia and Dominique Peyroux at the club before they leave at the end of the season.
Another player retiring after Friday’s Grand Final is James Graham. England’s most capped player at international level calls time on a 17-year career.
Saints squad: Coote, Makinson, Naiqama, Grace, Lomax, Fages, Walmsley, Roby, Taia, Peyroux, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Knowles, Lees, Amor, Smith, Bentley, Welsby, Batchelor, Simm, Dodd, Graham.
These two sides last met at the end of October, with Wigan producing an excellent second-half performance to claim an 18-6 success at the Totally Wicked Stadium to displace the Saints from top spot.
Thomas Leuluai, Bevan French and Jackson Hastings all crossed for tries in that fixture. Man of Steel finalist French hoping to round off a fine individual season with some silverware.
Lachlan Coote scored all of Saints points in the loss, and has enjoyed an excellent season at full-back. He also scored five goals in last year’s Grand Final success against Salford Red Devils.
BATTLE TO WATCH
Bevan French vs Lachlan Coote
The two players to watch out for on Friday night are the aforementioned French and Coote, with the pair having had influential seasons at their respective clubs.
French won the Rugby League Writers’ and Broadcasters’ Player of the Year awards last week, scoring his 13th try of the season in the Warriors semi-final win against Hull.
The 24-year-old made more clean breaks (31) and tackle busts (101) than any other player in Super League during the regular season, named in the Super League Dream Team for his efforts.
Coote has played out a similarly impressive season, scoring eight tries and providing 14 assists in just 13 appearances in the regular season. He crossed for two tries in Saints’ win against Catalans’ last week.
The New South Wales born fullback kicked more goals (60) and scored more points (152) than any other player in Super League during the regular season, and was deservedly shortlisted for the Man of Steel award.
Date: Friday, November 27
Venue: KCOM Stadium
It looked at times as if there might not be a Grand Final this year, given the impact Covid-19 has had on the 2020 Super League season.
But it comes down to an old rivalry between Wigan and Saints to decide this year’s champions. They were the best two teams over the course of the regular season.
Given that no side has retained the title for seven years, I fancy Wigan to claim a narrow, but hard-fought victory in Hull on Friday night.