Richards: Why I think my old mates will win

Wigan Warriors' Pat Richards celebrates with the Super League trophy last season

Wigan Warriors' Pat Richards celebrates with the Super League trophy last season

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MODERN master Pat Richards is “very confident” his old team will defend their Super League title on Saturday night.

Anticipation for the derby showdown against St Helens has gathered momentum as the Grand Final draws closer.

And interest in the clash has reached Australia, where former wing king Richards will be avidly watching events unfold.

The fans’ favourite ended his eight-years at Wigan with an Old Trafford triumph last year.

And Richards isn’t just hoping his old pals can match that feat... he believes their big-game credentials and work-rate will secure them the win.

He said: “It feels strange sitting here on the other side of the world, as the boys are about to enter another Grand Final. It only feels like yesterday that I was lining up right beside them.

“Any time I’ve seen Wigan play in a big game this year, it seems to bring the best out of them, and it doesn’t get much bigger than a Wigan-Saints derby – let alone in a grand final at Old Trafford.

“Ironically, this was the same Grand Final which started this great run the club has gone on since 2010.

“I’m very confident because I know how hard they all work, and the sacrifices they have all made to get to this stage. It’s not easy being premiers and every week having a target on your head. But this side has fought through that and got to another Grand Final.”

Former Man of Steel Richards left Wigan as their third-highest points scorer with 2,468 in 224 appearances, earning acclaim as one of the club’s greatest ever overseas players.

Since he left, teenager Joe Burgess has taken his chance on the left wing.

“It fills me with great pride to watch players like Joe come in and take their opportunity and do such a great job for the team,” said Richards, who made a big impact with Wests Tigers in the NRL this year and plans to play on in 2015.

“Joe has a bright future and will only get better.

“I want to wish the boys all the best – hopefully they’ll bring the trophy back to where it belongs.”

Both teams will name their 19-man squads today.

Wigan say there are no plans for a homecoming should they win the trophy on Saturday night.

Yesterday, it was revealed the losers of the Old Trafford showdown will take on Brisbane Broncos next Saturday, February 21 as part of the expanded, World Club Series.

Warrington face St George-Illawarra the night before – with Michael Maguire’s NRL-winning Souths facing the Super League champions on Sunday, February 22 for the World Club Challenge silverware.