Pre-match report as Wigan face Saints in opening derby day clash.
Adrian Lam set for his first competitive game in charge of the Warriors.
- Tickets still are still available for Thursday’s blockbuster.
The 2019 BETFRED Super League begins on Thursday night with an almighty bang as the reigning Super League Champions taking on the 2018 League Leaders’ Shield Winners at the Totally Wicked Stadium, 7:45pm kick off.
Add to the mix that Wigan and St Helens are among the most fierce rivals in world Rugby League and you have a very exciting prospect indeed.
Wigan carry the extra narrative of Adrian Lam taking charge as Head Coach for his first competitive game. Hold on to your hats everyone, it should be a thriller.
Wigan have almost a full squad to choose from; with Dom Manfredi (knee injury) and Jarrod Sammut (suspended) being the only players ruled out this week. Joe Burgess continues his recovery from a long-term injury (ACL).
Here is the 19-man squad:
Justin Holbrook’s men fell at the final hurdle last season in the BETFRED Super League, failing to get past Warrington in the Semi-Finals after a successful 2018 campaign.
They will certainly be looking to make amends this season and also get one over Wigan, after the Warriors convincingly beat them on home soil in the Super 8s last September.
New signings Lachlan Coote, Kevin Naiqama and Joseph Paulo all make the 19-man squad.
Who to Watch?
Coote signed for St Helens in the off-season and arrives with experience and proven success from the NRL. The 28-year-old Scottish international is a full-back replacement for Ben Barba who has returned to the NRL with North Queensland Cowboys.
Coote brings a wealth of big-game experience after playing 167 times in the NRL for Penrith Panthers and North Queensland Cowboys. He is a Grand Final and World Club Challenge Winner.
Naiqama signed for Saints from NRL side Wests Tigers in 2018 on a three-year deal. The 29-year-old can operate at full-back, centre or on the wing.
Naiqama has scored more than 50 tries in 113 NRL appearances, including Newcastle Knights, Penrith Panthers and Wests Tigers. He has also captained Fiji in the 2013 and 2017 Rugby League World Cups.
Tom Davies vs Tommy Makinson
With the wintery conditions set to play their part in the game, it may come down to a moment of individual skill to settle the two points. These two wingers can provide something out of nothing in an instant, whether it be a break from their own half, a try-saving tackle or an acrobatic dive in the corner.
Tom Davies scored 13 tries in 29 games in 2018, including one in the Super League Grand Final win over Warrington at Old Trafford. Because of his impressive form, the 22-year-old was named in the England Knights squad for the 2018 Tour of Papa New Guinea. Davies played in both games and scored the winning try in the first Test 16-12 win in Lae.
Tommy Makinson is set to play his 200th appearance for St Helens, as he looks to continue his form from the end of 2018. He was named in the 2018 Super League Dream Team, won the 2018 Rugby League World Golden Boot and featured in England’s three-match series against New Zealand. The winger scored a hat-trick in the second test at Anfield.
Who will step up and provide a moment of magic in the biggest derby in rugby league?
Tony Clubb vs Alex Walmsley
With it being January and the recent adverse weather, the pitch may not be ideal for the silky players of either side. This derby may be won and lost on the performances of forwards and their ability to drive their team up the field into the oppositions half.
Tony Clubb is a one of Wigan’s most experienced and consistent performers. The prop came off the bench in the 2018 Grand Final victory, after making 32 appearances throughout the campaign. His experience and work rate may prove vital for the Warriors.
Similarly, the return of prop Alex Walmsley will be a huge benefit to St Helens in 2019. After signing a new four-year contract in 2018, his year ended as he suffered a neck fracture in Round 5. But the England international is set to make his return on Thursday and he will certainly be a handful for Wigan’s defence.
Who will make the most metres and affect the game?
Sean O’Loughlin vs Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook
Two of Super League’s most experienced players, Sean O’Loughlin and Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook give their teams something different. A break through the line or a unique pass that diverts the movement of play can effect a game in a flash.
O’Loughlin, 36, is one of the most consistent and inspirational players of the Super League era and is Captain of both Club and Country. After being named in the Super League Dream Team for a record seventh time, the loose forward led Wigan to another Grand Final victory and his fourth Super League ring. O’Loughlin signed a one-year contract extension with the Warriors at the end of 2018.
McCarthy-Scarsbrook, better known as LMS, has proven to be an important of the St Helens team as he enters his eighth year with the Club. The 33-year-old made his Saints debut against Wigan at the 2011 Magic Weekend. He represented Ireland at the 2017 Rugby League World Cup and last year proved to be an impact player as St Helens won the League Leaders’ Shield.
Who will carry their team over the finishing line?
Did You Know?
Wigan forward Joe Greenwood started his rugby league career at St Helens and made his Super League debut in 2012. The second row went on to play 77 times for Saints, scoring 26 tries in his five years at the Club.
In the most recent meeting, Wigan triumphed at the Totally Wicked Stadium with a 30-10 victory. Dan Sarginson scored a brace, whilst John Bateman, Tom Davies, Oliver Gildart, and Sean O’Loughlin also got on the scoresheet to delay St Helens’ League Leaders’ Shield celebrations.
Overall in Super League, Wigan and St Helens have met 77 times. The Warriors have a slight edge with 37 win to that of Saints’ 36. There has also been four draws.
Two of Wigan’s three new signings, Zak Hardaker and Joe Bullock, could make their competitive debuts for the Club on Thursday. Both players, who signed for the Warriors in 2018, are included in Lam’s 19-man squad.
Bullock scored a brace in his first game for the Club against London Skolars and he also featured in the win over Salford Red Devils.
Hardaker made his first appearance for Wigan against Salford where he also scored a try.
Ahead of Thursday’s Super League opener, Lam said: “It’s two of the biggest clubs in the world up against each other, kicking-off the season.
“We’ve got a pretty tough month of footy coming up with St Helens away, our first home game being Leeds and then the World Club Challenge, so who do you focus on? All you can do is focus on St Helens in round one and focus on ourselves to make sure that we play the way that we want to and give ourselves the opportunity to start the season well.
“I remember having one pound coins thrown at me as a player. Once I realised there was quite a few I picked them up,” he joked.
“Traditionally they are one of our arch rivals of Wigan as a town and a club and that’s good for the game.”
Tickets are available from the DW Stadium Ticket Office until 5pm on Wednesday evening via phone (01942 311111) or in person. Fans will also be able to pay at the turnstiles on Thursday night.
Click HERE for prices and further details.