Brent Webb, Scott Donald and Kevin Sinfield are all back fit and in the reckoning and will be looking forward to playing in-front of a packed crowd and emulating the 34-10 win that we had at Headingley back in Round five. Ryan Bailey is still injured/out of favour and continues to watch from the stands as his colleague look to make it six from six on the run in to Old Trafford.
Bluey has named a nineteen as; Webb, Donald, Smith, Senior, Hall, McGuire, Burrow, Leuluai, Buderus, Peacock, Jones-Buchanan, Lauiti'iti, Sinfield, Diskin, Ablett, Burgess, Worrall, Watkins, and Ratu. So Mike Ratu gets another opportunity while the much raved about Manning drops back into reserve grade. This is as stong as it gets in terms of a seventeen, Bailey and Kirke would both add something to the bench once they are given the all clear.
It's not like the good old days when every single Wigan name was synonymous with international rugby and sky high salaries. The restrictions placed on all clubs has brought the mighty Warriors back down to everyones level, and in some cases, well below. There are still massive names within Nobles squad but he has also been forced to give opportunities to some of the younger squad members.
Wigan are without Bailey (withdrew today), Smith, McIlorum and O'Loughlin due to injury, and of course they are missing Gareth Hock due to stupidity. Wigan have won five out of their last six, amazingly their only loss in the period was to the competition whipping boys the Celtic Crusaders. Noble names his eighteen as; Roberts, Goulding, Carmont, Richards, Leuluai, Fielden, Riddell, Paleaaesina, J. Tomkins, Coley, Hansen, Prescott, Pryce, Phelps, Gleeson, Mossop, S. Tomkins, and Flanagan. With the captain and reserve captain both injured there may be a dressing room scrap to avoid the armband tomorrow night.
Three Warriors to watch;
Leeds played the Warriors five times last season, three in the league, the Challenge Cup, and the play-offs. In the three games at Headingley Leeds won two and lost one, and at the JJB is was honours shared. The aggregate over the five games was 125-73 to Leeds, somewhat skewed by the 52-16 win at the JJB in August. The average was 25-15 to Leeds but this masks the 22-23 and 10-14 losses, the latter of which was on the first meeting of the season at Headingley.
Leeds have won on the last three occasions that the sides have met, including this seasons convincing round five win, and when it really counted in the 2008 Challenge Cup and Play-offs the honours went to the Rhinos on both occasions.
The three returning players will add a lot to the Rhinos game and all three were missed last week as we limped past Hull KR to take the game in the last minute. Sinfield will have benefitted from the week off and we'll be hoping that he can regain some of his early season sharpness.
The game is live on SKY but Wigans big time promotion of the game has seen them sell over 17,500 advance tickets to beat the previous record for this fixture. With walk-ups still available and tickets costing £10/£5 concessions then they must be hoping for another couple of thousand should the weather hold.
There is a 30% chance of rain for friday night according to the current forcast and I think that the likelihood is that the players will get wet at some point. Temperatures will be pretty pleasant though.
The bookies haven't put our odds up yet but I'd expect that the Warriors would be getting ten to twelve points start.
It would be nice to think that we could have this one in the bag well before the last ten minutes. I am not sure whether my ticker can cope with another close finish.
See you there.