WIGAN will play their first game of 2011 this weekend with four ‘new faces’!
Off-season recruits Ryan Hoffman and Jeff Lima are set to play their first matches for Wigan in Sunday’s pre-season friendly at Salford.
And the game is also likely to mark the end of months of frustration for two existing first-team stars who missed the end of last season through injury.
Winger Amos Roberts hasn’t kicked a ball in anger since August due to complications of a knee problem he suffered earlier last year. And forward Lee Mossop is set for his first taste of action since suffering a shoulder injury last July.
Coach Michael Maguire said: “Amos is looking quite healthy at the moment and we’re keen to see how he goes with his knee.
“If he can find anything like the form he showed at the start of last year, we’ll be quite happy with that.” Mossop has bulked up in the off-season to give Maguire the option of playing him at prop this year.
The coach will field his top side but will be without centre Martin Gleeson and full-back Sam Tomkins, who both have niggling injuries.
And stand-off Brett Finch – who joined Wigan along with Hoffman and Lima from Melbourne – will also be absent. He suffered a recurrence of a neck injury during training and was due to be assessed later today.
“Unfortunately we’ve got a few bumps and bruises from a gruelling pre-season, so we’ve got a few young blokes who’ll get a chance,” added the coach.
“Stefan Marsh and Josh Charnley will get an opportunity, and Chris Tuson and Liam Farrell will get a run as well.”
Salford coach Shaun McRae is also planning to field a strong line-up in Sunday’s friendly (kick-off at The Willows is 3pm), including ex-Wigan crowd-pleaser Iafeta Paleaaesina.
The big Kiwi prop is one of a string of new recruits at Salford, which also includes ex-Warriors team-mate Phil Bailey and highly-rated Canterbury full-back Luke Patten.
Wigan also have friendlies against Barrow (Jan 23) and Warrington a week later.
Maguire has already indicated he will play the younger members of his squad in the match against Garry Schofield’s Raiders, with the front-line stars returning for Jon Clarke’s testimonial against the Wolves.