DARRELL Goulding says Wigan are relishing the chance to test themselves against Leeds’ headline-grabbing back-line at the Etihad on Saturday.
Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington has labelled their free-scoring backs as the club’s best in 40 years. Three-quarters Ryan Hall, Tom Briscoe, Kallum Watkins and Joel Moon are complemented by No.1 Zak Hardaker.
Yet despite a raft of injuries, Wigan’s backs are in good form themselves.
Dan Sarginson poached a hat-trick at Hull FC last Friday – in his first match at full-back – while in-form Anthony Gelling added two tries to boost their confidence ahead of this week’s Magic showdown.
Goulding admits Saturday’s encounter represent a huge challenge for them – but it’s one they are looking forward to.
He said: “I think everyone realises how well they’re playing, you’d have to be delusional not to recognise how good that backline is.
“But at Wigan we see that as a challenge, and we’re confident in ourselves. We know we can play well.
“They have recruited well, bringing in Tom Briscoe. But we’ve done alright against them before and there’s no reason we can’t perform.
“We were pretty close last time we played them.”
Though Wigan were beaten 28-12 at Headingley less than two weeks ago, Goulding has enjoyed plenty of tussles against Leeds in the past. Joe Burgess has been exceptional this season, while Dom Manfredi is set for his match against the Yorkshire heavyweights in place of injured Josh Charnley. “I think I’ve had five wingers this year, it’s been a bit different from having Josh there all the time,” said Goulding.
“But Dom has a lot of talent and a lot of strength. He has a really good running style which makes him hard to stop.
“He’s a really good young player who has come in and taken his chance.”
Charnley is one of up to eight senior players missing from Saturday’s match through injury.
Goulding likes the occasion of the Magic Weekend, but says that needs to be balanced with the unfairness the extra game has on shaping the final Super League table.
The 14 teams play each other twice, in addition to their Magic fixture to complete a 27-round campaign.
On Saturday Wigan face Leeds in their ‘extra’ league match – while play-off rivals Castleford and Huddersfield face much easier tasks, against Wakefield and Bradford respectively.
“And with relegation (of two teams) this year, potentially it could have a big impact on a team at the bottom of the table,” he added.