WARRIORS head coach Shaun Wane has welcomed Iain Thornley back from rugby union and has promised him a chance to fill the boots of veteran centre George Carmont.
Wane has confirmed that Carmont, who turns 34 next month, will leave the DW Stadium at the end of the season, his fifth with the Super League club.
The Samoan international, who has scored 58 tries since joining Wigan from Newcastle Knights, was persuaded to shelve his retirement plans by signing a new 12-month contract last July.
Wane blooded 20-year-old Jack Hughes at centre in Carmont’s injury absence earlier this year and says Thornley, who is the same age, will get a chance after cutting short his stay in the 15-man code.
Thornley, a centre or second rower who came through Wigan’s academy, was on the verge of making his Super League debut when he switched codes two years ago.
He moved to Premiership club Sale Sharks on a three-and-a-half year contract but spent most of last season on loan to Championship club Leeds.
“I’ve always been a big fan of Iain,” said Wane.
“I was disappointed when he left.
“It’s George’s last year and for Iain to get a few months with him as a replacement will be fantastic.
“He’s big, tall, athletic and has got good skills.
“He’s been playing that game for a few months so we’ll have to get him up to speed with proper rugby.
“He’s having a couple of weeks off because he’s been going for two years but he’s absolutely buzzing because he’s a Wigan lad and he knows he’ll get a chance.”
Meanwhile, Wane will have a near fully fit squad available for Saturday’s crunch Carnegie Challenge Cup quarter-final tie against St Helens.
Goalkicking winger Pat Richards will be the only notable absentee while Wane is delighted to have the services of skipper Sean O’Loughlin and fellow forwards Lee Mossop, Liam Farrell and Epalahame Lauaki, who all missed the Warriors’ 28-10 Super League win over Saints at Langtree Park on Good Friday.
Wane said: “I’ve a lot of respect for St Helens.
“There’s some great players in their team, but what happened last time will have no bearing on what goes on this weekend.
“I’m glad we won over there, but this is a totally fresh game and I’ve been preparing the lads with that in mind.
“James Roby, Paul Wellens, I’m a big fan of players like that, but the one thing that I’ve noticed since we last played them is that they’ve not really been in an arm wrestle since that day.
“We’ll give them that arm wrestle, put them under pressure, and see where we go.”