Opponents: Leigh Centurions
Venue: Leigh Sports Village
A look at the Opposition
Leigh have found their return to Super League tough and look destined to be battling in the middle eights again this season in order to preserve their Super League status. However, a narrow defeat at Headingley last week against Leeds and their recent impressive victory against Hull at the KC Stadium showcased their ability to perform at the top level.
The Leythers will love nothing more than adding to Wigan’s current misery having not won in Super League since beating Catalans on the 23rd April. The LSV hasn’t been the kindest of hunting grounds for Wigan in recent years with multiple defeats to Leigh in preseason friendlies and also the Challenge Cup defeat to Hull KR, when the LSV hosted Wigan as the home side.
As usual, the Leigh side will contain plenty of former Wigan players including Ryan Hampshire, Sam Hopkins and Danny Tickle. Ryan Hampshire has enjoyed mixed fortunes so far during his time at Leigh but a recent run in the halves has given him the opportunity to show his skills in the position he is so desperate to play in – and the rumoured main reason he left Wigan. Thursday night could be the perfect platform for Hampshire to show why he was so highly rated at Wigan before his premature departure.
Wigan will be missing Liam Farrell who has been banned for one match due to using foul and abusive language towards Phil Bentham after being sin binned against Hull FC last week. Wigan are also missing Sean O’Loughlin due to a hamstring injury and Sam Powell due to the concussion recover rules, after failing the concussion test against Hull FC.
However, Wigan do welcome back Oliver Gildart after 10 weeks out due to injury caused in the horrific crusher tackle by Brett Ferres. Josh Ganson returns to the squad after impressing many in his recent first team performances and Romain Navarrete is also added to the squad.
Thoughts on the Game
This really is a make or break month for Wigan in terms of the top 4 aspirations and Challenge Cup hopes, starting on Thursday at Leigh. Losing O’Loughlin and Powell is yet another blow for Wigan but the time for excuses regarding injuries has now long passed and Thursday is a must win game. It will be a very difficult game for Wigan, with all due respect to Leigh – this is their cup final. Beating their nearest and dearest at home in their first season back in the top flight, knowing that a defeat for Wigan makes a top four finish very difficult – what a motivation that is.
Wigan have to find a way to win, the defensive display in the past two weeks have been two of the worst defensive displays I have seen from a Wigan side in a long time. Shaun Wane very rarely lets things like that happen twice, let along three times in a row, so I expect a monumental improvement in Wigan’s defensive efforts on Thursday – in particular, their one on one defence which seems to be have been the issue.
If there was a game for George Williams to rediscover his early season form, then starting on Thursday would be it.
A must win game in June, backs against the wall – what a great opportunity for this young Wigan side.
Last Time Out:
The Wigan Rugby Blog predicts:
Score: Leigh 12 – 24 Wigan
First Try Scorer: George Williams
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