Opponents: Salford Red Devils
Venue: AJ Bell Stadium
A look at the Opposition
The Red Devils enter the 2018 season after a 2017 season that started brilliantly for them, included a Challenge Cup Semi Final spot but then fizzled out over the Super 8’s. Friday night’s game is the first in the Post-Koukash era for Salford and 2018 possess perhaps their toughest challenge, both on and off the field.Embed from Getty Images
Their turnover of players in the offseason suggests that their squad is now much smaller (especially without a youth system!) and perhaps lacking in quality. The departing Michael Dobson, Todd Carney and Ben Murdoch-Masila are three big holes to fill in their squad. Whilst speculation remains over the future of their star halfback, Robert Lui with Hull KR openly making a bid for him last week – lots of attention may be on his performances and attitude in the early season games.Embed from Getty Images
Salford improved their home record massively last season and make the AJ Bell a fortress at times, they will need to do that again this season to ensure they are playing in the Super 8’s rather than the Qualifiers comes July.
It’s difficult to know what to expect for the first game of the season but it would appear, on paper at least, that Salford in 2018, look a little weaker than 2017.
Wigan are without Sean O’Loughlin, Joe Burgess and John Bateman for the trip to Salford but all are expected to be fit for the trip to New South Wales.
Thoughts on the Game
There’s a lot of internal and external pressure on Wigan this season for reasons that we are all aware of. I expect Wigan to be really pumped for this game and to try to lay a platform for the rest of the season. At times, in Leigh friendly, Wigan’s new look “spine” look exciting and vibrant and hopefully, that will be the case for the full 80 minutes on Friday.
Wigan are likely to be missing Joe Burgess and Sean O’Loughlin for the game, so a perfect opportunity for Liam Marshall to perhaps right a few wrongs from the back end of last season and to recapture his scintillating form of early 2017.Embed from Getty Images
Liam Forsyth is included in the squad after an impressive assist on Sunday against Swinton for a Jack Higginson try. Forsyth started on the wing in that game and will be pushing Liam Marshall for a starting spot against Salford.
I expect a Wigan win and I expect a controlled, professional performance. The first game of the season can be low scoring games due to the lack of match fitness and I would expect this game to be won by Wigan around the interchange period. Whatever bench Wigan pick on Friday, it already looks to be much stronger than most of the 2017 season and it could be the time for Wigan to press home an advantage. Morgan Escare coming from the interchange is a very exciting thought and I think his presence on the field on Friday could give Wigan the edge.Embed from Getty Images
Looking at the 19 man squad, my Wigan line up for Friday would be:
I/C. T. Tautai
I/C. W. Isa
I/C. F. Nuuasala
I/C. M. Escare
Hamlin and Forsyth missing out
The Wigan Rugby Blog predicts:
Score: Salford 10 – 24 Wigan
First Try Scorer: Liam Marshall
We will be outside the ground getting your pre and post-match thoughts. Come and say hello and be on Wigan Fan TV!