It’s the return of Sam Tomkins to the DW Stadium after his move to the South of France. Can Wigan go two in two after beating Salford last weekend? Here’s everything you need to know.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
After a poor start to the season, round eight hits and the Warriors head into the game against the Dragons off the back of a win, Adrian Lam’s team beating Ian Watson’s Salford last weekend. Things really have not been going Wigan’s way but with combinations beginning to take shape and players slowly returning from the injury room, it will be interesting to see whether Wigan can make it back to back wins in front of their home fans.
It has been an up and down start to the 2019 campaign for Steve McNamara’s side, mostly impressing at home. With four wins and three loses and sitting in 6th, it is probably about where the side would have predicted themselves to be come the end of March. The Dragons have slowly picked up results and are going about their business quietly.
A fair few changes for Wigan going into this one. Tony Clubb comes back in after a game out, Gabe Hamlin misses out after a run of a couple of matches in the team. Smithies and Partington are added back in the team to face the French outfit.
Wigan Warriors 19-man squad: Bullock, Burgess, Byrne, Davies, Flower, Gildart, Hardaker, Isa, Leuluai, Manfredi, Navarrete, O’loughlin, Paisley, Partington, Sammut, Sarginson, Shorrocks, Smithies, Williams.
In a fresh Catalans team, new signing from the NRL and the Melbourne Storm, Sam Kasiano slots straight in after a terrific performance against Leeds last week. Sam Moa comes back in since Catalans’ last outing away at Craven Park, as does Greg Bird. In exchange, Antoni Maria and Lambert Belmas miss out.
Not any milestones in this one for Catalans exactly but it is a return to the North West for Sam Tomkins as he steps foot back in the DW Stadium since his arrival as the new Catalan fullback. Former NRL star, Prop, Sam Kasiano will play in his second match for the Dragons, after an early registration gave him permission to make an appearance last weekend at home to the Leeds Rhinos, a game Catalans won.
Catalans Dragons 19-man squad: Gigot, Williame, Tierney, Langi, Smith, Casty, Moa, Edwards, Bird, Bousquet, Whitley, DA Costa, Goudemand, Albert, Baitieri, Romano, Yaha, Kasiano, Tomkins.
HEAD TO HEAD
In the four meetings of the two sides in 2018, Catalans were beaten in them all, the same happened in 2017 and in fact, the last time Catalan defeated Wigan was all the way back in 2015 – when the French side demolished then, Shaun Wane’s Wigan side, 58-16. Especially at the Stade Gilbert Brutus, Catalans will be keen to not just impress but to try and consolidate 6th, or sneak ahead of the forever blossoming, Wakefield and Salford, who also face off on the same day.
Wigan on the other hand, need to properly kick start their season and to show that they can still challenge for the big prize this year, they’ll need to back up their impressive victory at the AJ Bell Stadium against Salford last Sunday. Wigan have a good record away in France, winning both times they went there over the course of 2018 so this one should be interesting to see who gets first dibs in 2019.
Zak Hardaker (Wigan) v Sam Tomkins (Catalans)
In a changed team with a much different approach to on field matters, Zak Hardaker is playing the role that Catalan fullback, Sam Tomkins used to play. The former Leeds & Castleford starlet has began the season in decent form for Wigan although he has had to be patient and still is. With Wigan winning just two in seven, he has been required to focus on the more defensive side of his game. Tomkins comes back to his old stomping ground in fine fettle, playing some good stuff, helping lead his new side around the park. With a mixed start, like touched on before, Tomkins can use the platform he has laid so far to take to his former home and possibly help spring an upset.
The way these two match up, is that they are opposite numbers, two different number 1’s in their own rights. A lot of what Hardaker does, Tomkins used to do in his younger days. Both that little bit more experienced, more so, Tomkins, it will be interesting if we see a more attacking approach from Hardaker this weekend, or will we see the defensive fullback again.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Sunday 31st March
Venue: DW Stadium
Referee: James Child
WHO WILL WIN?
Although Catalans have began to string a few results together, after a win at Salford, I see Wigan backing that up with a third win in eight as they face off at home to Catalans. Wigan 28-16 Catalans