In our first ‘In the Know’ of the 2018 Betfred Super League season we talk to Wigan Today’s Phil Wilkinson about all things Wigan as the Warriors travel to the The Salford Stadium this evening.
Wigan come into the game on the back of some solid pre-season results, how have the side been going so far in 2018?
They were satisfied with how they played at Leigh – the wins at Swinton and London Skolars involved reserve sides – but given they have played poorly and lost friendlies in recent years, and gone on to enjoy successful campaigns, I keep their pre-season form in perspective.
They’ve lost Michael McIlorum and Anthony Gelling in pre-season. How big are these losses for the Warriors and how will it impact them?
Micky’s a big loss, for sure, but they won a Grand Final and a World Club Challenge without him, and his form last season when he returned from injury was – understandably – not as good as we know from him. I think the move away will help him.
Gells? He was popular, off the field, and Wigan and Super League will miss that.
But on it he never quite shook the ‘rocks and diamonds’ tag. I’d argue he’d usually finish games in credit, even when he made mistakes; his workrate and metres were usually high.
Daniel Sarginson has returned to the Club and Gabe Hamlin has signed from Australia? What will they bring to this Wigan side?
Sarge will bring work-rate. The right-edge of Sarginson and Tom Davies may not get pulses racing but they should be effective, eating up metres – and the knock-on effect of that is their team-mates will be fresher, and in better position. They may not get all the rewards their efforts warrant.
Sam Powell has been given a half-back shirt and Wigan have options at full-back. How do you see them setting up in the backs this season?
I imagine – early on – Powell will start at half, but move to hooker when Leuluai is rested before half-time, and the knock-on effect will see Sam Tomkins switch from full-back to half-back, and Morgan Escare will come off the bench to play at full-back.
They did a similar ploy in 2011, when they accommodated Finch, Leuluaui, McIlorum and Deacon. Whether they stick with it, or change it, will presumably depend on whether it works and how fit the playmakers stay. Jake Shorrocks is also knocking on the door after a year out on the sidelines.
Who is the one to watch for Wigan this season?
Sam Tomkins. He was better than many gave him credit for when he returned to the side mid-way through last year, and he has benefited from his first full off-season in nearly a decade.
How do you seen the season panning out for Wigan overall?
There isn’t a great deal between them, Leeds, Hull FC, Cas, Warrington and St Helens. No doubt, Shaun Wane will be hoping Lady Luck cuts them a break – they have better depth and experience to cope with injuries than some – but they also need an improved attitude from what they showed at the end of the year, and at stages throughout last season.
Wigan to win 28-12.