Thomas Leuluai admits the time for excuses is over – and called on the ‘real’ Wigan Warriors to show themselves at Warrington.
Wigan make the short trip to the Halliwell Jones Stadium for a plum Challenge Cup quarter-final tie, looking to bounce back from last week’s flogging at Leigh – their seventh Super League game without a win.
When asked if he hoped the return of six internationals would mean the ‘real’ Wigan would show themselves today, Leuluai replied: “I’m not so much hopeful of that – we need to.
“It’s what we get paid to do.
“We’re not making excuses, and over the next few weeks we definitely won’t have any excuses.
“We know we have to perform. I think against Leigh everything came to a head.
“We weren’t playing well, and sometimes when you’re in a hole, the more you dig the worse you play.
“But these are things you have to go through, this is what we get paid to do – and we need to fix it.”
Sam Tomkins, Anthony Gelling, Sam Powell, Liam Farrell, John Bateman and Sean O’Loughlin all return.
And Kiwi scrum-half Leuluai lifted the lid this week on just how tough the Warriors have been doing it injury-wise this term, with seven academy products having made their debuts, including two who hadn’t even trained with the first-team squad.
“I’ve never been involved with anything this bad,” Leuluai acknowledged.“Obviously I’ve had injuries, but not with it being this disrupted.
“There were a couple of times I’ve had to introduce myself to player, before a game.
“One time, I didn’t know his name – this was my centre! I didn’t know who he was, because he’d never trained with us, straight out of the Under-19s.”
On that occasion, James Worthington was elevated into the senior side on a day’s notice.
“Then you’ve got Joel (Tomkins) having to play in the halves, it’s been crazy!” Leuluai continued.
“In a few weeks we’ll have everyone back, and then people can judge us from there.”
Warriors go into today’s game having failed to win any of their last seven Super League games.
And despite the extenuating circumstances, Leuluai admits the ‘frustration’ being felt in the stands among the fans has definitely made its way into the dressing room.
“If the season looks frustrating from the outside, it’s definitely been frustrating from the inside,” he revealed.
“Sounds like we’re on pretty much the same page there!
“I don’t want to talk about it too much, because we look like we’re trying to make excuses – and we’re definitely not.
“But we have had a disrupted run of injuries, and we’ve not been able to put out our best team, week in week out.
“Look at John Bateman, a back-rower, who I came over looking to play outside for most of the year – I’ve played one game with him.
“Sam Tomkins hasn’t played yet, we had Morgan (Escare) come in and then he gets injured. I also missed a month with a broken jaw, which was very frustrating, but that’s how it goes.
“I think we’ve done a decent job with some of the young kids.
“You’ve got to give them credit – (Liam) Marshall, for example, has been fantastic.
“But looking at training this week, with some of the guys back, the intensity has just risen.
“We’ve had some of our best sessions of the year this week.”
Warriors are looking to bounce back from the ignominy of a 50-34 battering at Leigh last Thursday – which Leuluai hopes will represent ‘rock bottom’.
“I hope so,” he recognised. “But I was also hoping the week before that was rock bottom!
“Seriously, I’ve been here long enough, and when you have players of the calibre we have, and players who want to work hard, you’ll get out of it.
“I’m not worried about that. It’s whether we’ve got enough time to do it (in time for the play-offs).
“We’ve never not been confident, because we’ve got some really good players to come back.
“There’s six players back this weekend and they’re internationals – including the England captain. There’s some good players to come in, and I’m looking forward to it.
“It’s been a tough little grind, but I don’t want to take anything away from the young kids. They’ve done a really good job and they’ll be better for it.”
Wigan’s cause this year hasn’t been helped by the lack of a recognised ‘frontline’ goalkicker, which has seen several players being handed the kicking tee in recent weeks.
“I think everyone’s had a crack at the goalkicking this week,” Leuluai smiled.
“It’s strange because I don’t think George (Williams) missed one in practice last week... but it’s just not coming in games.
“It’s something we have to go through as a club, but the good thing is we are scoring enough points.
“When you score 34 points, you should be winning.
“We’re not losing games by the odd two points.”
Kick-off is 3pm (BBC1).