A look at the Opposition
After their first Super League win of the season, against St Helens, the Centurions are bound to be full of confidence heading into the local derby against the Warriors. The Leigh team appear to be growing into the season with an attractive brand of expansive rugby league, which we saw glimpses of against Leeds in their Round Two game and last week against St Helens. However the defensive frailties in the team, as shown against Castleford in Round One, are there to be exploited, particularly in the backs.
The experience that Leigh have in their ranks means that they are going to be a competitive team this year, the likes of Stewart, Hock, Higham and Hansen are not going to accept simply taking a Qualifiers position – I expect that more scalps, like St Helens last week, are on the cards for Leigh.
I see Leigh being a team that will perhaps win more than they will lose at the Leigh Sports Village, but away from home they may struggle.
It looks like Shaun Wane will be handing out his first debut to an academy graduate of 2017 with Liam Marshall looking likely to come into the squad. He is set to replace Oliver Gildart who is rumoured to being rested with a minor injury. Liam Marshall who was in effect released by Wigan last year, impressed whilst playing for Swinton Lions in 2016 and earned himself a contract back at Wigan for 2017.
According to Phil Wilkinson of the Wigan Evening Post (http://www.wigantoday.net/sport/rugby-league/wigan-warriors/wane-ready-to-hand-out-another-debut-1-8410707) Joe Burgess is set to move to centre. An interesting move, in particular when Wigan have plenty of second rows and John Bateman played centre for a large part of the 2015 season, earning a place in the England side at centre.
The left edge from Wigan of Gildart and Burgess has been the main point of attack in the first three games this season, so a disruption to that partnership could favour Leigh but it will be intriguing to see how Burgess and Marshall get on.
A Thursday night game away at Warrington follows this for Wigan, so there may be thoughts of rotation from Shaun Wane, particularly with Sean O’Loughlin approaching a fourth game in four weeks and with Bateman set to come back into the side for his first Super League appearance of 2017.
Thoughts on the Game
As good as Leigh were in last weekend against St Helens, it looked like St Helens’ defence was equally as poor – that’s one area I expect Wigan to vastly improve upon, particularly after letting in 26 points at Widnes on Friday. I do think Wigan will have too much for Leigh in the end. The Leuluai-Williams partnership has had another week to gel and I expect the Wigan halfbacks to be the difference against Leigh on Friday.
I am tipping Anthony Gelling to turn it on for the first time this season, we saw glimpses of his ability in the Widnes game with a great assist for Lewis Tierney. A couple of his more erratic offloads have blighted his early season games but I think we will see Gelling return to his Man of the People podium on Friday night.
It’s great to have the Centurions back in Super League and another Derby game at the DW, lets see if the Warriors can make it 6 points from 6 on Friday night.
The Wigan Rugby Blog predicts:
Score: Wigan 26 – Leigh 12
First Try Scorer: Anthony Gelling