Opponents: Warrington Wolves
Venue: Halliwell Jones Stadium
A look at the Opposition
The Warrington team looks to be infuriating their fans at the moment as they remain win-less in their first three games of the Super League. However, they produced an unbelievable performance against Brisbane in the World Club Series, which included a 100% completion rate in the first half.
The first half performance against Brisbane was one of the best performances from a team I have seen in a long time and if they return to being able to perform to that level, they will certainly be a big threat in the game on Thursday and for the rest of the season.
Looking at their game last week against Salford, the combination between new recruit Kevin Brown (Man of the Match against Brisbane) and Declan Patton looks rusty and in need of game time. Their outside backs however, may fancy their chances however, against what is set to be another reshuffled back line from Wigan. The packs from both teams are solid and what promises an interesting forward battle on Thursday – keep an eye on Flower and Sims – particularly after Flower’s red card last season.
Wigan are yet again, injury ravaged and we are only approaching Round 4. However, one thing we have learned during Shaun Wane’s tenure is simply that an injury is not an issue – it’s an opportunity for someone else to stake a claim for a place in the first team.
Wigan will be without Joe Burgess, Oliver Gildart, Lewis Tierney, John Bateman and Ryan Sutton; as well as long-term absentees Tomkins, Manfredi, McIllorum and Connor Farrell. Shaun Wane has announced his 19 man squad which includes Joe Bretherton and summer recruit, Romain Navarette, who look set to battle it out to replace Sutton on the interchange bench. Liam Forsyth, who returned in the close season from Bath RU looks set to make his debut on the wing with fellow winger, Tom Davies, named in the 19 man squad, to miss out on his first team debut.
Elsewhere, the centre spot, last week occupied by Joe Burgess, could be taken by Jack Wells who played three games for the Warriors last year and impressed many in the England Academy team.
My line up from the announced 19 man squad would be:
Escare, Marshall, Gelling, Wells, Forsyth, Williams, Leuluai, Flower, Powell, Nuuausala, Farrell, Isa, O’Loughlin with an interchange of J. Tomkins, Clubb, Tautai and Bretherton.
Thoughts on the Game
Last week I tipped a big game from Anthony Gelling and for him to score the first try – he ended the game with two tries, including scoring the first try – whether anyone listened to me and won some money from the tip I am not sure. So no pressure on this weeks tip then…
I can’t imagine Warrington being as poor as they have been recently in the league and I expect them to perform to a level above their last three Super League games. Winning at the Halliwell Jones always feels like a significant one, maybe because over the past ten years, they have been few and far between – and when Wigan have won, they have been incredible games.
Despite the injuries that Wigan have, I still fancy them to win, the mentality of this group of players at the moment is incredible and I actually think they strive on a siege mentality that numerous injuries seems to instil. I am hoping that Jack Wells gets a run at centre, he is one player that I am excited to see how he has developed from last year. I think Wigan still have enough in the team to win on Thursday, especially with Escare, Williams and Leuluai being the creative spark in the side.
I am tipping George Williams to have another Man of the Match performance and to sway the game in Wigan’s favour.
The Wigan Rugby Blog predicts:
Score: Warrington 14 – 22 Wigan
First Try Scorer: Nuuausala (why not, if you are going to win, may as well win big)
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