‘Widnes players have been given a free rein’

Willie Isa in action against his old club Widnes in their last meeting
Willie Isa in action against his old club Widnes in their last meeting

Shaun Wane believes Widnes will be given a licence to thrill at the DW tonight.

And he reckons their unpredictable and adventurous approach will give his strong defence a thorough test after a week off with no action.

The Vikings have no chance of breaking into the top-four play-offs spots.

And Wane expects his former Wigan colleague Denis Betts to give the players a free rein to impress – making them a more dangerous proposition.

The Warriors boss said: “I think Denis will tell them to go and enjoy themselves and express themselves and play, and that’s when thy’re most dangerous.

“We need to make sure we put the right players under pressure, otherwise they can be hard to stop, so our defence will have to be really good and strong.

“They play an exciting brand and they have players who can burn you.

“Kevin Brown and Joe Mellor in the halves are real threats, and on top of that Rhys Hanbury has some gas out the back.”

Wane had already warned his players about the ‘Wigan factor’, telling them to dismiss the notion the Vikings have nothing to play for.

Betts has five ex-Warriors in his squad as well as Connor Farrell, who is on loan for the season.

Among the familiar faces is Greg Burke, who left the Warriors in July to move to Widnes in a move which secured his future, and freed up some cash for Wane to bring in Frank-Paul Nuuausala.

“I’ve watched all their games since he’s been there, and Greg’s the main man,” said Wane. “We need to look at their threats and he is one of them.”

While Widnes have little to play for but professional pride, Wigan are still hoping to overtake Hull FC and Warrington and finish the season in the No.1 spot.

The League Leaders’ Shield may not carry the prestige many feel it should, but it does have a £100,000 reward as well as a home semi-final berth.

Hull have a two point lead on Wigan, sandwiching Warrington in second.

But their rivals must recover from the emotionally-draining Challenge Cup, and with Hull travelling to St Helens – and the Wolves heading to Catalans – Wane knows they may be able to make up lost ground.

“Playing at Wembley does drain you mentally,” said Wane. “Hull and Warrington will have that to deal with.

“I didn’t see the game... I was too busy sulking that we weren’t there!

“If things go our way, then great. But all we can focus on is what we can control, and that’s winning our remaining four games and putting ourselves in the best possible position to get some silverware.”

Wigan beat Widnes in their last outing, a drab 7-0 away win, but went down 18-12 earlier this year in a game which ended their year-plus long winning run at the DW.

“There will be no complacency from us,” added Wane. “Widnes did us last time they came here.

“We tried hard and couldn’t make it happen, so I’l be upset if I see any signs of complacency.

“We have our mindset on a tough game against a team who really gave it to us last time they came here.

“If we can play like we did against St Helens last time (in a 25-0 win), we can put them under pressure.”