Wigan and the Challenge Cup are synonymous and they are 80 minutes away from another Challenge Cup final. Wigan have played a record 30 Challenge Cup finals, winning the famous trophy on 19 occasions. In their way of a 31st final are Salford, a team that has impressed many this season but whose form has dropped off somewhat over the past few weeks.
It feels like Salford have been focussed on the semifinal since drawing Wigan, so much so, I think their form has been effected by it. Wigan, since the quarter-final against Warrington have had a couple of setbacks, the draw against Huddersfield and the limp performance in defeat in Round 22 against Warrington. Neither side looks to be playing at their best at the moment, Salford suffering a 25-0 defeat at Leigh last week whereas Wigan had a slight confidence boosting win against a young Leeds side.
A few weeks ago, I wrote that the remainder of Wigan’s season was Challenge Cup or bust. It doesn’t look quite like that, with Wigan only three points off fourth place but a Challenge Cup Final along with the World Club Challenge – things start to look a look more positive.
Salford bring in Manu Vatuvei and Tyrone McCarthy for the semi-final, a move which I can understand but a move that I think could work in Wigan’s favour. To bring two new players into a game in which you have ultimately decided is your biggest game, a game which I think the Salford camp are building up too much – could be their downfall. No matter how good a player is, to bring them in after not playing for such a long time in Vatuvei’s case and to bring him in for semifinal, for me is risky. Vatuvei can score you tries, no doubt about that but how much confidence will his centre have in his defensive reads – they need game time, of which they don’t have. I think Vatuvei will have a big say in which team gets to Wembley, one way or another …