Phil Wilkinson picks out five reasons to be excited about the derby...
You almost feel sorry for those who try and claim their derbies are bigger. They’re not.
Because Micky McIlorum is back. And her hasn’t played in 14 months – it’ll be great to have the tough-tackling hooker, celebrating his testimonial, back on the pitch. He has a lot of frustration to vent – you almost feel sorry for the first person he whacks!
Because Wigan haven’t won in four games and, while no-one is panicking, Shaun Wane will hate that run to continue against their fiercest rivals – especially as he has a perfect Good Friday record. Thankfully, the Warriors also welcome back Joe Burgess, Sean O’Loughlin and Anthony Gelling; their side should look more assured and balanced, despite an injury to Tony Clubb.
Because these games rarely disappoint. Pick a year, and I’ll pick a highlight. There have been great tries, tackles, finishes, duels, scraps, comebacks... they’ve had them all. This should be no different.
Because this is Good Friday, the first derby of the year and – we all know – the biggest derby in the game. You almost feel sorry for those who try and claim their derbies are bigger. They’re not. This is the one. As the expected 24,000 crowd will testify.
Because this will be St Helens’ first game since sacking Keiron Cunningham as coach. Teams often pick up after a coaching change, and Saints should be no different. Sean Long, a man who has polarised opinion over the years, will be part of the coaching team in charge of the Red Vee today, while their No.7 is Matty Smith – a player who needs no introduction to Wigan fans.