SHAUN Wane has labelled Warrington as their “bogey team” as he plots his first victory against their noisy neighbours as head coach.
The Wolves have won the last five Super League encounters against Wigan, including a double last season during Wane’s first season in charge.
Stretching back to include his previous two years as assistant to Michael Maguire, Wigan have won just two of their last seven encounters – at the start of 2010 in Super League and a Challenge Cup match the following year.
And Wane is desperate to avoid that run being extended when Tony Smith brings his star-studded outfit to the DW Stadium for a mouth-watering showdown tomorrow night.
Wane said: “They have something on us, they’ve beat us a few times in big games so they’re a bit of a bogey team.
“They’ve done better against us in recent years than any other team in Super League.
“Why? They’re well coached, they play a physical game, they’re aggressive and they’ve got great skills. They have two good halves and when you start reeling off their players, looking at Brett Hodgson, Adrian Morley and Michael Monaghan... they’re an outstanding team and they are the benchmark – they are where I want us to be.”
Despite his gushing assessment, Wane has every confidence that his players have the ability to fire an early shot across the bows tomorrow.
Both teams are fancied to be in the mix for silverware at the end of the season but of the two, Wigan have started the new season with more question-marks about their trophy-winning credentials following a string of departures at the end of last year.
Wane’s widely-circulated comments – pointing out they were written off 12 months ago as well – and their comprehensive opening day 42-0 win against Salford have done little to convince all the critics, but a victory against Warrington tomorrow may just do that.
“I was pleased with last week, our defence was good, our attack was okay – but this is a new challenge for us,” said Wane.
“This week will be totally different. We’ll be up to the challenge, and so will Warrington. This game is very-much a marker for us. Big players didn’t perform in some of our big games last year and it’s a good chance to address that.
“I’m looking forward to it.”
Wane has named an unchanged provisional 19-man squad and hinted he is likely to field the same team which beat Salford, which would see Greg Burke and Anthony Gelling drop out.
Meanwhile, a groin strain for Ben Harrison means he is out for Warrington. Ben Currie takes his place in an otherwise unchanged squad.
Wigan (likely): Tomkins; Charnley, Goulding, Thornley, Richards; Green, Smith; Prescott, McIlorum, Mossop, Farrell, Hughes, O’Loughlin. Subs (four from): Dudson, Flower, Taylor, Powell, Burke, Gelling.