What a great start Wakefield have made to the 2018 Super League season, second in the table only on points difference with four games played, four games won. Are they the real deal? The next six games that Wakefield have in the Super League will certainly determine whether their form is isolated to the early season or whether they are genuine contenders for a top four finish. Wakefield start a very tricky seven game period away to Wigan on Sunday, followed by games against Widnes, Warrington, Castleford, Hull FC, Leeds and St Helens. Their top four credentials, as well as their squad strength is really going to get tested over the next seven weeks.
Their great start to the season has seen Tom Johnstone, return from a 2017 season ending injury in blistering form, leading the league in terms of clean breaks and getting a call up to the England Elite Development Squad. Matty Ashurst has impressed with his defensive displays, although he will be missing due to suspension on Sunday and big David Fifita continues to, well literally, knock down anything in front of him. The man mountain is second in the Super League stats charts for tackle busts with 27, only to Ben Barba’s 32 – not bad for a front rower!
Shaun Wane has talked up Romain Navarrette’s chances over the past three weeks since his impressive stint in Sydney against the South Sydney Rabbitohs, but as of yet – he is yet to play for Wigan. Last week he played for Swinton against the Toronto Wolfpack and held his own – so, will this week be his chance? Ben Flower reportedly missed training earlier this week due to illness, which could give Navarrette that long awaiting chance.
Wakefield will add Tom Johnstone back into their starting XIII no doubt and will be looking for a solution to plug the gap made by the suspended Matty Ashurst.
Thoughts on the Game
Wigan’s impressive second half display last week against Widnes was perhaps impressive due to how poor they were in the first half. Their lack of possession was compounded by their poor discipline in the first half – despite that and the 0-16 scoreline, you always fancied them to get back in the game.
This week, discipline will be crucial in what could and should be, a very close game. This is the first test for Wigan, post Sydney and post jet-lag; to prove that they can be a team that competes with the likes of St Helens at the top of the table this season.
The absence of Matty Ashurst, who has been very impressive for Trinity this season could be key for Wigan and their chances in this game. A second home game in a row may also play in their favour. I expect a Wigan victory and I am expecting a big game from Joe Burgess again this week. Burgess was given, what I view, as a backhanding compliment back being named in the England Knight’s squad; a former full international demoted whilst Tom Johnstone, who missed most of the 2017 season, has been promoted to the senior squad. They will both come head to head on Sunday and what an opportunity this is for Joe Burges..
Looking at the 19 man squad, my Wigan line up for Friday would be:
01. S. Tomkins
02. T. Davies
03. J. Bateman
04. O. Gildart
05. L. Marshall
06. G. Williams
07. S. Powell
08. T. Clubb
09. T. Leuluai
10. R. Navarrette
11. L. Farrell
12. W. Isa
I/C. T. Tautai
I/C. R. Sutton
I/C. G. Hamlin
I/C. M. Escare
Assuming that Ben Flower has been ill and wont be risked this week.