Opponents: Salford Red Devils
Venue: DW Stadium
A look at the Opposition
Salford have been going very well this season, it’s amazing what a settled side and coach can create without an egotistical owner becoming too involved (yes I am not Koukash’s biggest fan). Ian Watson deserves a lot of credit for what he has achieved so far with his side and they appear to be a very competitive side and I am sure Watson will be the first to acknowledge the roll in which Tim Sheens played in the development of this group. They have come from being two minutes away from a Championship side in October, to a top four contender in May – that’s some turnaround.
The last meeting between the two sides was the first game of the season which Wigan ran away with in the first half, but a spirited revival from Salford in the second half probably gave them the belief to go on the excellent run that they have been on since. Wins against Warrington, Castleford, St Helens and the thrashing of Hull FC in Hull (18-54). Their away form, baring the impressive result against Hull has been hit and miss, with defeats at Wakefield, Leeds and Catalans being their other three defeats of the season, along with their defeat to Wigan back in February.
Before the 19 man squad announcement, I would have said that the Salford Red Devils look to be too strong for such a young Wigan side which should see them pick up their first win in Wigan since 1997, a twenty year wait could end on Friday. However, the Salford squad is hit by the absence of Justin Carney who has been banned for 8 games for racially abusing Ryan Bailey during the Salford v Toronto, Challenge Cup tie. Ian Watson is also without Craig Kopczak, Lee Mossop, Todd Carney, Gareth O’Brien, George Griffin, Mark Flanagan, and Weller Hauraki – through injuries and apparent resting ahead of their Hull KR Challenge Cup clash. Perhaps Wigan have a chance…
The Salford Red Devils 19 Man Squad:
Wigan 19 Man Squad:
Wigan replace George Williams, Sean O’Loughlin, Ben Flower, Anthony Gelling, Michale McIlorum and Morgan Escare with Lewis Tierney, Liam Forsyth, Joe Bretherton, Jack Wells and potential debuts for Gabe Fell and Josh Woods.
Thoughts on the Game
As touched upon above, before the 19 man announcement I would have suggested that it should be a walk in the park for an experienced Salford side against a very inexperience Wigan side. However, the external optimist or my cherry and white tinged viewpoint means that I am quietly confident that Wigan may just upset the odds on Friday.
I am excited about seeing Gabe Fell potentially make his debut for Wigan, a great talent who has been plagued by injuries over the past twelve months and someone who could be an exciting prospect at fullback. He has been consistently a top performer for the Under 19’s and Reserve side and he is certainly one to watch, however with Tierney back in the squad, he may not quite make the cut this week but could be a player for the Swinton game. I would expect longer minutes from Josh Ganson on Friday after his debut last week; again, the more minutes he has on the field the more likely we will see the same sort of ability that he has shown in the U19s and reserves in the past two years. Jack Wells, returning from injury after his brief spells against Warrington and Leigh early in the season is another reason to be optimistic, a very talented player.
The next two games against Salford and Swinton are a good opportunity for the likes of Joe Bretherton and Romain Navarrete to earn themselves a first team jersey for a longer spell with the Achilles injury sustained by Ben Flower very likely to keep him out for the season.
Looking at the 19 man squad, my Wigan line up for Friday would be:
With Josh Woods and Gabe Fell missing out but probably having an opportunity the following week in the cup against Swinton.
I would expect the side to be a lot different to above, it’s pretty difficult to predict this week but I would suspect that Joel Tomkins could be used as an interchange hooker to spell with Josh Ganson. That would allow a good defensive change in the middle with Tomkins defending centrally and coming up against his brother! If only Wigan had a replacement hooker named Tomkins …
The Wigan Rugby Blog predicts:
Score: Wigan 22 – 18 Salford
First Try Scorer: Burgess
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