Rival coaches Shaun Wane and Daryl Powell have played down any friction between them ahead of Wigan’s home match against leaders Castleford tomorrow night.
Last year, Powell said he felt Wane had “disrespected” Castleford with remarks about his own side’s current form, and there was an exchange of shots ahead of their Challenge Cup meeting.
There’s no grudge, I’m a big admirer of the way they playShaun Wane
In the off-season, Rangi Chase upset some Wigan players by posting a video of his tackle which ended Dom Manfredi’s season on social media, for which he later apologised.
And some read into the fact Powell was the only Super League coach not to congratulate Wane on the World Club Challenge success.
But Tigers coach Powell said: “It’s just competitive - he’s competitive, I’m competitive.
“We’ve had some great battles over my time at Cas and he’s been at Wigan a long time. We’re both pretty proud of the clubs we represent and that’s it. That’s all it is.
“Yes, it’s intense and there’s a really good rivalry there. I think it’s been built up a bit, but we’ve just been trying to focus on one game at a time.”
And Wane said it would be unfair to label this a grudge match.
“There’s no grudge, I’m a big admirer of the way they play,” he said. “I don’t know Daryl, but I’ve got loads of respect for the club and they’re the best team in the competition. They’re killing everyone, only Salford have beat them.”
Wane has named Liam Farrell and Anthony Gelling in his 19-man squad in the hope they will be fit to play.
Oliver Gildart is among a raft of frontline absentees, but Powell does not feel they will be a weakened opposition and has challenged his players not to be ‘rattled’ by Wigan’s defence.
“I think they’ve been high-quality over the last two years, how they’ve been able to integrate the young players and still they won the comp last year with all those injuries,” he said.
“That was a massive pat on the back for their youth system and the young players they’re bringing in. The games they’ve played, even with the injuries they’ve had, have been exceptionally tight.
“Going away to Wigan’s always the big test. We’ve found it really difficult over the last few years so it’s going to be a difficult challenge for us.
This is a big challenge for us, going there and coming up with a good performance and not getting rattled.
“I think that’s the thing.
“They’re the current champions and everybody wants to play against the best teams and prove yourselves. It’s a big challenge for us.”