SCOTT Taylor’s development into one of Super League’s best props faces a real acid test over the next six days.
Tonight’s (Friday) showdown with Hull KR is quickly followed by a trip to Warrington.
Both contests will be played out in front of the Sky Sports cameras, and Taylor will use his performances to help gauge how far he has progressed - and how much more he needs to improve.
The visit of his former club, the Robins, tonight holds enough connections to mark it out as a special fixture for him.
But it also has the added sub-plot of a front-row battle against one of the competition’s most respected players.
And in the off-season, they have beefed up their pack with the recruitment of former Kangaroos prop Michael Weyman.
At 29, he is still at his peak, and his return from a two-game ban will add fire to a middle-unit which also features aggressive Australian Justin Poore.
Then, six days later, the champions face a Grand Final rematch against fierce rivals Warrington which - for Taylor - should feature a mouth-watering showdown of the props against Kiwi hardman Roy Asotasi and England international Chris Hill.
“It’s a massive test for me. I can’t wait to rip into them,” said Taylor.
“No disrespect but last year in Super League, some teams aren’t competitive. Putting 50 or 60 points on someone... it’s no test to me. I need to see where I’m at, and that’s what you get when you play other props. Weyman has won an NRL and played Origin, he’s definitely no slouch.
“In the World Club, the Roosters had Jared Waerae-Hargreaves, this week it’s Weyman, next week there’s Asotasi and Chris Hill - they’re big tests for me to see where I’m at and how much I need to improve.”
Recruited before last season from the Robins, Taylor took a while to settle into the side and by mid-season, fans began to see just why Shaun Wane had parted with a significant transfer fee to sign him. A strong, direct runner, he troubled rivals with his 6ft 3in, 18st frame as the Warriors marched to a Challenge Cup and Super League double.
At just 23, he reckons he is nowhere near the finished product. “I’ve got so much still to work on,” he said. “I know that, Waney knows that, and I feel I’m nowhere near my potential. I need to be more consistent in every stint I do.”
Tonight, he will have the distraction of banter to contest with - as well as more interest from friends and relatives in the build-up.
“When the fixtures come out it’s the one I look for, being my former club,” he said.
“It’s big for the family and friends who are KR fans. I’ve still got good mates at KR,
“I’m always in touch with Josh Hodgson and Kris Welham, I’ve known them for years.
“It’s a big game, and we’ve made it a bigger game by not getting the two points against Castleford, so we need a performance.
“We definitely don’t want to go into the Warrington game on back-to-back losses. That’s not us.
“We normally rise to the challenge against Hull KR. It’s a new pack, they’re aggressive, but they’re playing the same way under Craig Sandercock and we know we’ve got a job on.”
Taylor, meanwhile, says he has been following the FA Cup with interest... for different reasons to many people in Wigan! He is a big Hull City fan and is hoping they can overcome Sheffield United in their semi-final at Wembley, a day after Latics face Arsenal.
But he will not be able to watch the final - it clashes with Warriors’ Magic Weekend showdown against Leeds.