PRESSURE will draw the best out of Wigan and put them firmly back on track, according to coach Shaun Wane.
His Warriors outfit have won just one of their last four encounters and face a crunch test against Wembley winners Leeds tomorrow night, in front of the Sky Sports cameras and a bumper crowd.
On paper, this clash looks far more challenging than their recent trips to Bradford, Hull KR and Widnes, which reaped just one point from a possible six. But with his players under the spotlight, Wane has backed them to respond with a display which will kick-start their faltering run-in.
He said: “It’s not been an easy week, everyone has been hurting.
“But we have a great team coming to our home and we seem to up our game against these type of opposition.
“I know my players and I know that they do turn up when they’re under pressure.
“In big games, they respond – and they don’t get much bigger than this.”
A depleted Wigan team beat Leeds 18-14 at the Magic Weekend, and Wane has a far stronger squad to select from for tomorrow. “We just need that it of confidence and that streak of form again,” he said. “We were way off against Widnes, our attack wasn’t great, we gave them a lot of ball – we know if we have our fair share of ball and finish sets on our terms we can trouble anyone.
“We just need to get back to that.”
Third in the ladder, Wigan could slide to sixth with defeat, while victory would consolidate their position and put them on course for a crucial top-four finish.
Wane has drawn conclusions about why their form dipped in August.
“I’ve found that, since 2010, we don’t handle weekends off well,” he said, nodding to the consecutive breaks for the Challenge Cup semi-finals and final.
“It’s something we need to address.
“We sit down and try and find the formula, we look at GPS, asking how many miles we need to get into the players’ legs – the more senior teams handle it better.”
Scott Taylor has been replaced in the squad by Ben Flower while Matt Bowen, Joel Tomkins and Sam Powell are also likely to come back into the frame. Centre Jimmy Keinhorst replaces the suspended Joel Moon for Leeds.
The 19 man squad is: John Bateman, Matt Bowen, Josh Charnley, Tony Clubb, Dom Crosby, Gil Dudson, Liam Farrell, Ben Flower, Anthony Gelling, Blake Green, Jack Hughes, Dom Manfredi, Michael McIlorum, Sean O’Loughlin, Eddy Pettybourne, Sam Powell, Dan Sarginson, Matty Smith, Joel Tomkins