SHAUN Wane has claimed the underdog status ahead of Monday’s mouth-watering showdown at Warrington.
The Warriors’ injury woes have shown no signs of receding, with centre Iain Thornley likely to miss the game and Blake Green having “no chance” of returning.
Wane’s absentees include O’Loughlin, Ben Flower, Gil Dudson and Mike McIlorum, while scrum-half Matty Smith and centre Darrell Goulding will be assessed tomorrow.
And though Pat Richards, Sam Tomkins and Liam Farrell return to the side which beat Widnes in their last outing, Wane acknowledges they have their work cut-out if they are to topple a Warrington outfit which has scored 198 points in their last three games.
He said: “It’s a really big test for us.
“They’ll be red hot favourites with the injuries we’ve got.
“But it’s another chance for me to see where we are at with the squad.”
Bookmakers have instilled the Wolves as slight favourites, giving Wigan a betting handicap of four points – suggesting they expect a close encounter.
Wane added: “We’ve no O’Loughlin, Green, McIlorum, Flower, Dudson. Thornley’s injured his ankle in training, we’ve got doubts on Matty Smith and Darrell Goulding, and Warrington are at full-strength – so I’d say we’re underdogs.
“But I’m confident with the players I’ve got, and for lads like Sam Powell, Greg Burke and Logan Tomkins, it’s a great chance.”
Thornley’s withdrawal is expected to see Anthony Gelling switch to centre, a move which accommodates Richards’ return on the wing, and the rest of the backs division should have a familiar look.
But it is up front where Wane’s problems are most obvious.
He has just three fit props in Dom Crosby, Lee Mossop and Epa Lauaki, and is resigned to pushing one of his back-rowers – possibly Harrison Hansen – into a front-row role at some stage during the match.
Monday evening’s televised away game will be followed four days later by the visit of Castleford.