If history teaches us anything, it is that this current Rhinos can cause an upset. A Grand Final win from fifth in 2011, that sensational Challenge Cup semi-final victory at the Galpharm in July, and that amazing play-off win at the DW in 2010. This is a Rhinos side that can rise to the occassion and the Warriors will be very nervous about their chances tonight.
Shaun Wane was left with no option but to pick the Rhinos. They are the lowest placed side still in the competition and had he selected the Wolves he was on a hiding to nothing. That said, he did pick the Rhinos and he knows that his side can be beaten by Headingley outfit and that they were in their most recent encounter.
Leeds will, of course, be without the services of Danny McGuire after Shaun Wane and Sam Tomkins tried their hardest to influence the disciplinary committee through the media. Their outbursts, as supposed professionals in a professional game, were inexcusable and something that the RFL should consider in the close season. Kylie Leuluai returns from his one game suspension and takes McGuires place in a squad which is otherwise unchanged from last weekends successful South of France trip.
McDermotts dilemma is now who he picks and where he picks them from his nineteen of; Jones-Bishop, Watkins, Hardaker, Hall, Burrow, Leuluai, Peacock, Jones-Buchanan, Ablett, Sinfield, Delaney, Bailey, Kirke, Clarkson, Hauraki, Griffin, Moore, Ward, and Lunt. Common sense suggests that it will be Sinfield and Burrow at halves with Lunt at hooker, but with Stevie Ward as the joker in the pack you never know what McDermott will do. I suspect that Hauraki and Moore will be the two to miss out.
Wane's Warriors are +12 favourites with the bookies and for the straight result they are 2/9 for the win. The bookies give the Rhinos very little chance af a second semi-final upset in 2012. Wigan are still without Michael McIlorum who serves the second game of a three match suspension but do recall Gareth Hock after he missed the win over the Catalans Dragons a fortnight ago. There are plenty of danger men in the nineteen named as; Carmont, Charnley, Dudson, Farrell, Finch, Flower, Goulding, Hansen, Hock, Hughes, Lauaki, Leuluai, Lima, Mossop, Murphy, O'Loughlin, Richards, Smith, and Tomkins.
Three pie munchers to keep an eye on;
Richard Silverwood takes charge of the game, not a favourite amongst Rhinos supporters, but not particularly liked by Wigan fans either.
The Warriors have had an extra week to recover from their easy victory over the Catalans but the Rhinos are backing up a trip to France with one over the Pennines. The lads will have had plenty of rest during the week, as well as some good workouts, and just like last season they are reaching their peak of physical fitness.
On recent form Wigan have lost two in their last five, as have the Rhinos.
Rather than look back at a long history between these sides (3 wins, 1 draw, 7 losses in the last three seasons) it is more pertinent to look at the recent 'big game' fixtures between the two sides.
Earlier this year we surprised the rugby league world with the sensational cup semi-final win at the Galpharm, we lost comprehensively in the 2011 Challenge Cup Final at Wembley, and in the play-offs in 2010 it ended up one-all as the Rhinos won at the DW but then lost at Headingley tow weeks later to be denied a game at Old Trafford. When the chips have been down the sides have shared the honours over the last three years.
Once again I am tipping against my own team in a major game. It seems to be working (Cup Final excepted). I think that the loss of McGuire, just as he was getting back to full fitness, will be a big factor in the game. I am sure that we have enough play makers in Sinfield, Burrow, Lunt and Ward to give the Warriors a good game but home advantage, a week off, and a big vociferous home crowd will all be in Wigans favour.
The forecast for today looks pretty decent for Wigan with only a small chance of rain. The pitch has had a battering over the last few days but the Warriors report that it is in a good condition and that there is very little chance that they game is in any danger.
It should be a cracker, but the lads will need our support to get to Old Trafford.
See you there, enjoy the game.