Well for those of you, like me, who didn't make the trip out to
France, its been a long 25 days between matches and it almost
feels like we are restarting the season.
To be honest though I think this could prove to be a very
timely break. We mastered a difficult run of away fixtures with
great aplomb and now we have the chance to really press home our
three point lead with easier games to come over the next few
That's the theory anyway but I think fans might just need to
not expect too much over the coming weeks. Prior to the Exiles
break we clearly fired in top gear with some classy displays but
it is pointless and energy wasting to do that against teams like
Widnes for example. We probably won't need to fire anywhere near
top gear to beat them. If we do fire well, great, but no point
peaking for this if we flat for energy in the cup semi final!
Don't get me wrong, I expect a good win, but I can't say I'll be
fussed if we don't get the 60+ points win that many are predicting
Now we have of course been bitten on the bum by Widnes already
this season but as much as the world and his wife can go on about
their 37-36 win back in March but we all know that wouldn't have
happened if Sam Tomkins and a few others had been on the pitch.
Also, it conveniently gets glossed over that we did actually lead
36-18 that day with a team that included four raw young debutants.
Looking back now in hindsight, I think we benefited so much for
that long term. It gave the new young players a very, very
valuable lesson, that I think they have deeply benefited from. I
mean when you list that team now, it doesn't look that weak......
Matty Russell, Anthony Gelling, Darrell Goulding, Jack Hughes,
Josh Charnley, Brett Finch, Joe Mellor, Jeff Lima, Mike McIlorum,
Lee Mossop, Harrison Hansen, Gareth Hock, Chris Tuson. Bench: Eric
Lauaki, Ben Flower, Logan Tomkins, Tom Spencer.
That was the team that played back in March at Stobart Stadium.
Sam Tomkins and Sean O'Loughlin are obviously big inputs but it's
not much different from the team that has been performing
brilliantly in recent times and that will turn out for us on
Monday. In some areas, second row for example, that was a stronger
line up that what won at both Leeds and Catalan.
Anyway, onto this Monday and well everyone is expecting us to
just simply pump Widnes by a heavy score. Easy to see why. Widnes
have been embarrassingly pathetic away from home this season.
Their average losing score on the road is 54-8 and they've had
over 60 put on them away to Huddersfield, Catalan, St Helens and
Warrington (Magic Weekend).
Barrie McDermott was waxing lyrical on Sky's Red Button show on
Friday about Widnes improved displays against Huddersfield,
Catalan and St Helens (in the cup) in recent times, but all those
performances have been at Stobart Stadium Barrie, on the
ridiculous i-pitch. Away, like I said, they've been pathetic,
producing displays that shows up how poor a 14 team Super League
is at the bottom end.
Having said that, I do think they have improved a little. I
think Paul McShane has been an excellent signing from Leeds and,
had they not conceded a late score to London, they could easily
have been coming here on the back of two wins in a row and four
points clear of bottom of the table.
Wigan obviously need to cover the injury to Thomas Leuluai that
occurred in the England v Exiles match and it looks clear that
Sean O'Loughlin will be the man to switch to Stand Off.
I can't say I'm that keen on it, but I can certainly see the
logic. We are strong for cover in his loose forward position and
he will do a job at Stand Off. I'd be more worried if we had a
big, taxing, run of fixtures coming up but we should be able to
cope against the likes of Widnes, Bradford and Wakefield.
Worth noting that Lockers has started 44 games previously for
Wigan at Stand Off. Yep, I'm staggered to find out it's that many
as well to be honest. Very staggered, but that's the bare facts.
Granted most of those came in 2003 and 2004, but that did include
the run 13 games that led to the amicable Grand Final defeat to
Bradford in 2003.
The three point cushion gives us breathing space to try things
out in replacing Tommy. I think we all agree that we've plenty of
options, but none of us really know which is the best choice.
O'Loughlin is the safe choice and to start with, like I said, I
can see the logic. We also have the option of recalling Matty
Russell and playing him at full back with Sam switching to the
halves, but the club don't seem keen on moving Sam from Full Back
and Waney has already spoke of his intentions to rest Sam around
the forthcoming second England v Exiles match.
Other choices include recalling Joe Mellor who will actually
play for Widnes against us on Monday, despite being on loan from
us. Sam Powell might be fit soon from his broken leg to try out or
a bit younger we have two excellent half back prospects in Ryan
Hampshire and George Williams. The latter two would be big gambles
but ten minutes here or there off the bench wouldn't be a bad
option, particularly now 12 interchanges has been reduced to 10.
The league fixture list coming up for us is perfect to try
things out. You'd never wish injury on any player but if the gods
have decided that it was Tommy's turn for a lengthy injury, then
he couldn't have timed it any better. Better now after a run of
Saints (twice), Huddersfield, Catalan and Leeds than before it!
It's for that reason that I'm not too worried about Tommy's
injury. He is for me the most underrated player in the game, both
domestically and particularly internationally, for what he has
achieved, but he is still a bit of an enigma in my eyes. I mean he
does brilliant and classy work yet I still don't, and never have,
seen him as vital to our cause as a scrum half! He's always been a
hooker playing at seven for me and thus because we have McIlorum,
we can cover that loss. (Note: I'm probably making no sense at all
in this paragraph lol but I know what I mean in my own head haha!)
Anyway, enough rambling from me. I'm just glad to have the
rugby back after missing out on France. Bring on Monday Night! But
please, no more Monday Games thank you Sky. Doesn't half bugger my
weekly website routine!