With the departures of Michael McIlorum and Anthony Gelling confirmed, how Wigan will line up in 2018 remains to be debated. It would appear that Gelling’s replacement is Dan Sarginson, but what about McIlorum, will the space (if there is any space!) on the salary cap allow Wigan to strengthen in any other areas of the squad?
Plenty of rumours fly around during preseason and notably when there is suggested salary cap space, rumours vary from a swan song season from Gareth Hock – a third spell at the club to provide some bulk in the pack or even an outrageous signing like bringing Joe Greenwood back from the NRL. Time will tell as to whether any rumours turn into reality, at the moment though, young Gabe Hamlin remains the sole addition to the Wigan squad for 2018.Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images
Based on the squad that Wigan have at the time of writing, how would you have Wigan set up? In an interview during their preseason camp in Newcastle, Shaun Wane confirmed to Wigan TV that they would “be using Tommy as a nine” this year – leaving the halfback partnership, perhaps the most important positioning on the field, still up for debate.Embed from Getty Images
Having broken into the Wigan side as a halfback, the transition of Sam Tomkins back into the half would seem to be the most natural repositioning, allowing Morgan Escare to play at fullback. On paper, a spine of Leuluai, O’Loughlin, Williams, Tomkins and Escare certainly looks exciting however, Tomkins has recently suggested in an interview with Phil Wilkinson that he wants to remain at fullback:
“I want to be in the team every week. I want to play full-back, that’s my ideal position.”Embed from Getty Images
Should Tomkins remain at fullback, we could see Escare move to partner Williams in the halves or even Sam Powell or Jake Shorrocks having a shot at the halfback role. Shaun Wane has said that he has his team already in mind for the start of the Super League season. Wigan, over the past few years have had a tendency not to play full strength sides in their preseason fixtures – sometimes playing senior players for 40 minutes in their annual friendly against Leigh. Perhaps this year, more than ever, there is a real need for Wigan to treat the preseason games or in particular, game, against Leigh with an added seriousness given the repositioning this year.
So how would you expect Wigan to line up, come the start of the season?
Here’s my attempt at a team, keeping in mind that Dom Manfredi is unavailable for the start of the season. There are unconfirmed rumours that John Bateman may be missing at the start of the season also after having surgery post World Cup.
- Bateman (Isa if Bateman is out)
Overall, although Wigan have lost more players than they have brought in this year, there does appear to be strength in depth for the club – without adding players from the Under 19’s like Samy Kibula, who has been training with the first team squad in preseason:
Fullback – Escare, Tomkins, Sarginson
Wings – Burgess, Davies, Marshall, Manfredi
Centres – Sarginson, Gildart, Forsyth, Bateman, Higginson
Half Backs – Williams, Tomkins, Leuluai, Shorrocks, Powell, Wood
Props – Flower, Sutton, Tautai, Nauuasala, Clubb, Navarette, Bretherton, Hamlin, Field, Barnes
Hooker – Leuluai, Powell, Ganson, Shorrocks
Second Row – Farrell, Bateman, Tomkins, Isa, Hamlin, Wells
Loose Forward – O’Loughlin, Bateman, Isa, Hamlin, Flower