Wigan Warriors boss Shaun Wane is excited by the return of the ‘Battle of the Borough’ tonight when his side take on rivals Leigh Centurions in the Super League for the first time in 12 years.
Wane is well aware of Leigh’s threats however, with many of the Centurion’s team having turned out for the Cherry and White’s in the past at some point.
He said: “I’m excited, I know the majority of the Leigh players and I’ve coached the majority of them. I know Neil Jukes well from when he played and coached at Bridge.
“Any team with Gareth Hock and Harrison Hansen, Mickey Higham, Danny Tickle people like that they’ll always be very competitive, it’s going to be a tough game they’re flying, they beat St Helens, they were the best team against Leeds so it’s a big challenge for us – a big, big game.
“We need to make sure it’s a big game for them, it’s going to be very, very physical, they dominated St Helens and we need to make sure they don’t dominate us.”
The Warriors head coach also admits that other teams raising their game against Wigan is something they are used to having to deal with, expecting Leigh to be no different when they kick off at the DW this evening.
“We played Widnes last week and they were a lot better than when we watched them the week before against Huddersfield so teams improve when they come to the DW, teams want to play better because of our position and what we have achieved, we are considered a scalp.
“It’s hard for my team that they’ve always got teams coming here and playing a lot better than they normally play but it’s a sign of respect now, we expect that here.”
There is a respect for Leigh within the Wigan camp says Wane, even if that respect doesn’t extend into the stands from the fans.
“It’s 20 minutes down the road, even though the fans don’t like each other the staff and the players have a good mutual respect for each other, it’s going to be a real tough game in the early period.
“What they did to St Helens is they dominated them, they bullied them and we need to make sure that we stand up to ourselves and look after ourselves and fight fire with fire.”
Wigan head into the game looking for their fourth consecutive win after beating Salford, Cronulla and Widnes in previous weeks.
Oliver Gildart and John Bateman are unavailable for the home side after picking up minor shoulder problems so prop Joe Bretherton and centre Liam Forsyth come into the fold instead – the latter still waiting for his debut.
Liam Marshall retains his place in the squad and will likely come in on the left hand side. He will be preferred to Forsyth with Joe Burgess moving into the centre to accommodate the loss of Gildart.
A large crowd is expected at the DW tonight, with kick off at 8pm.
Wigan’s 19-man squad: Burgess, Bretherton, Clubb, Escare, Farrell, Flower, Forsyth, Gelling, Isa, Leuluai, Marshall, Nuuausala, O’Loughlin, Powell, Sutton, Tautai, Tierney, Tomkins, Williams.
Leigh’s 19-man squad: Naughton, Pelissier, Brown, Tickle, Crooks, Vea, Tonga, Hampshire, Dawson, Reynolds, Drinkwater, Green, Hock, Hopkins, Higham, Acton, Weston, Burr, Hansen.