Matty Smith is looking to tonight’s visit of Salford as an early opportunity for Warriors to prepare for the cut-throat nature of play-off rugby league.
Wigan need one more point from their five remaining regular season games to be mathematically guaranteed a place in the race to Old Trafford and are still within a shout of topping the table should St Helens and Leeds slip-up in the run in.
And with Salford desperately needing wins to secure a play-off spot, having won three of their last four outings, Smith has warned his Wigan team mates tonight’s test won’t be easy.
“It doesn’t get much tougher than Salford at the moment, they’re one of the in-form teams just now,” he said.
“I know they lost at Leeds last week but they pushed them really close and before that they were on a winning run.”
But the former Salford halfback, who played 76 games for the club between 2010 and 2012, would rather his current club face tough games between now and the play-offs to ensure they are battle-hardened as they defend their title.
“We know how tough a game it’s going to be but you want to play in the big games, the tough games, at the end of the year and we’ll be ready for it,” he said.
“I had two great years at Salford, two years I’ll never forget.
“I made some great mates there, some of them are still there, and it’ll be great to catch up with them.”
The Red Devils, coached by former Warriors assistant Iestyn Harris were pipped 22-18 by second-placed Leeds Rhinos which illustrates the task at hand for the champions as they take on a side which has enjoyed a month of good form with wins over Huddersfield, Hull KR and Hull FC.
But despite having a shorter turnaround than their opponents thanks to last Sunday’s trip to Bradford, Smith is fine with how the schedule has panned-out.
“It’s ideal for us because we want to put that performance right as quickly as possible,” he explained.
And the hard-working half, who has 97 goals and five tries from his 24 appearances in 2014 is also looking forward to facing a host of familiar faces, including ex-Wigan player Harrison Hansen and on-loan hooker Logan Tomkins.
“It’s going to be great on Thursday, I’m looking forward to them coming here,” he added.
“Logan’s still there and doing very well, and obviously Iestyn is in charge now.
“It’ll be the first time I’ve seen him since he moved to Salford, although we’ll be determined to get one over him on the night.”
Anthony Gelling returns to the 19-man squad for tonight’s game while Darrell Goulding misses out after taking a bang to the knee in the defeat to Bradford Bulls last Sunday.