Opponents: Castleford Tigers
Venue: DW Stadium
A look at the Opposition
Castleford are the form team in Super League so far this season, sitting in first place coming into the game against Wigan on Thursday night. Their attacking flair has to be admired so far, they have scored an incredible 281 points in seven games an average of 40 points per game! Compare that to Wigan, who so far have scored 166 points, an average of 23 points per game. Castleford’s defence, on paper has so far been the second best in the league, conceding 103 points compared to the best defence in league – Hull FC, who have conceded 100 points.
Are Castleford the real deal or are they going to tail off as the season goes on? That is the million dollar question at the moment but they certainly look the real deal so far. The biggest test for Castleford will come when or if, they start to pick up injuries. Could they deal with their 1,2,3,4,5,9,11 and 13 missing – like Wigan were against Leeds last week when Gildart left the field injured and they could also missing again on Thursday night.
Castleford’s only defeat of the season so far came away from home at Salford, a team that is building a good reputation of beating teams at the AJ Bell – with Wigan the only team to win there so far this season. A narrow 13-12 defeat probably highlights the need for Wigan to produce their best defensive display of the season in order to stand a chance against the likes of Gale, Chase and Hardaker.
The Castleford 19 Man Squad:
- Rangi Chase
- Matt Cook
- Greg Eden
- Luke Gale
- Zak Hardaker
- Oliver Holmes
- Andy Lynch
- Nathan Massey
- Paul McShane
- Mike McMeeken
- Greg Minikin
- Adam Milner
- Joel Monaghan
- Junior Moors
- Ben Roberts
- Jesse Sene-Lefao
- Michael Shenton
- Gadwin Springer
- Jake Webster
Speaking to www.castlefordtigers.com , Daryl Powell commented:
“We’ve got a couple of injury doubts, Greg Minikin is one while Joel Monaghan has tweaked his groin and Junior Moors is obviously struggling. We’ve got a couple of boys we need to check on as we go through the week. Oliver Holmes rolled his ankle as well but it was nice to see him get some game time.”
“We think we can improve again on what we did last week. Defensively we were pretty solid but we’re going to get challenged this week and it’s going to be a big game for us.”
Powell praised Wigan’s efforts despite their ongoing injury issues:
“They’ve had a lot of injuries this season and they’ve been high quality over the last two years in being able to integrate the young players and still perform. The games that they have played, even with the injuries have been extremely tight. They are a difficult side to beat and they always have been.”
Wigan 19 Man Squad:
Interestingly Wigan have announced this as an “initial squad” – which seems to be very specific wording which suggests a late change could be made. Gelling and Farrell are the obvious concerns, having been named in the 19 man squad last week but didn’t make the 17. It is likely to be just that, with Josh Ganson and Callum Field, who were named in the 19 man squad against Hull FC likely to be the 20th and 21st man so to speak. However, with the likes of McIllorum, Burgess and O’Loughlin cited to return over Easter – could we see a late inclusion from one of those? I wouldn’t be surprised to see Mickey Mac manage to convince Shaun Wane that he could do a 20-minute spell from the bench on Thursday night. What a boost that could be for Wigan, both players and fans alike.
Thoughts on the Game
In my contribution to Wigan Today’s 18th Man Column this week (Click here to read more) I suggested that a win on Thursday night for Wigan would be the most unexpected Wigan victory since the 2003 Good Friday game (Click here to watch highlights from the 2003 Good Friday game ). I still feel that way after seeing the squads but there is just something, I don’t know what it is, that makes me think Wigan could upset Castleford in this game.
Shaun Wane loves nothing more than putting his faith in the young Wigan players and upsetting the odds – the fact that people are waxing lyrical (and rightly so) over this Castleford team will make Wane and the team more determined.
Wigan cannot afford to let Castleford get ahead of steam in this game, if anything, it needs to be a tight, niggly game. Wigan need to disrupt the Castleford flow and dominating the ruck area, something they failed to do against Leeds is crucial. It is imperative that Wigan play the game at the speed they want it to be played at and dominate the ruck area. If Wigan allow the likes of Gale and Chase, time and space behind a quick play the ball, it could be a long night for Wigan.
I do think that this could be a great, backs against the wall display from Wigan and one that I am looking forward to – it has a similar feeling as to the Hull and Warrington Super 8’s games at the back end of the 2016 season.
George Williams scored two great tries last week and Wane has suggested that he should be playing even better – what a great opportunity for Williams to put in a complete performance, in a game which sees him come up against another England halfback, Luke Gale.
The Wigan Rugby Blog predicts:
Score: Wigan 22-20 Castleford
First Try Scorer: Liam Marshall