THOMAS Leuluai will play again for Wigan this season, Shaun Wane insists.
The halfback is facing an eight-week lay-off after scans confirmed he had suffered a cracked bone and ankle ligament damage in the Exiles’ 18-10 defeat by England on Saturday night.
A relieved Wane said: “The results of the scan are a lot better than I expected. He will play again this year.”
Leuluai was stretchered off the pitch on the hour-mark in agony, sparking concerns the 26-year-old – heading to New Zealand Warriors at the end of this season – may have played his last match for Wigan.
And those fears were heightened on Sunday when the Kiwi’s brother, and housemate, MacGraff Leuluai Tweeted he was “out for the season”.
But last night Wane eased those worries, telling the Evening Post: “The scan has shown a crack on the bone, as well as ligament damage.
“He’ll be out for about eight weeks, which is a huge blow for us, but to be honest I was relieved because it could have been a lot worse. If he had needed an operation he could have been facing a much longer time out.
“I’m confirmed he will play again this year, definitely. If we get to Wembley, he could be back then.”
Leuluai’s lay-off means Wane – and Wigan – will suffer heavily from the match between England and the Exiles, a team of Super League’s best foreign stars.
“I’m disappointed, it’s upsetting,” he said.
“I understand why they want to play but we’ve lost a big player for eight weeks.”
Wane has given his players several days off to recharge their batteries, before they get back to Super League action with a home clash against Widnes on June 25 – a Monday night fixture for the Sky Sports cameras.
Yet the coaching staff will today begin plotting how they will cope without their lynchpin Leuluai, who has struck such a lethal halfback combination with Brett Finch this season.
One option could be switching Finch to No.7 and playing Sean O’Loughlin in the stand-off berth.
Wane could also move Sam Tomkins to the playmaker role and bring rookie full-back Matt Russell back from his loan spell at Hull FC – or thrust young halfbacks Joe Mellor or Sam Powell onto the senior stage.