SHAUN Wane last night said he was “hopeful” Matty Smith will be fit to make his comeback against Leeds Rhinos.
The halfback has been named in Wigan’s 19-man squad to face Leeds tomorrow (Sunday) in the headlining Magic Weekend showdown.
But Wane won’t know for certain until after the final training session later today whether he has fully recovered from his shoulder problem.
With Aussie stand-off Blake Green also sidelined, Wane fielded a rookie halfback pairing of George Williams and Sam Powell last week in London.
But Williams has flown to France with the England academy squad – leaving Sam Tomkins on stand-by for a return to the halves should Smith fail a late fitness test.
Either way, Wane is confident they will perform as they aim for their 11th straight victory.
“We’ve prepared well and it should be a good game between two quality sides,” said Wane. “I’m hopeful Matty will play.”
Leeds have won the last three meetings between these two heavyweights and, intriguingly, have never lost a Magic fixture.
But they have never met Wigan before, and Chris Tuson, who returned from a hamstring injury a week ago, said: “They’ve won the last two times we’ve played them, we’re due a win and we’ve had a good week – hopefully we can do a job this weekend.”
Wigan have met St Helens in all but one of their previous Magic encounters but Tuson doesn’t believe the change in opposition will lose any of its sparkle.
“No way, it’s always a big game against Leeds,” he said.
“How many times did we play St Helens last year? It was ridiculous. It makes the Saints game more special if we only play them two or three times a year, I think it’s better this way and it’s a massive game for us.”
The last time Tuson played at the Etihad he was sent off for his role in a mass-brawl. “Whenever people talk about Magic they only talk to me about that!” he grinned.
“I’m not interested in that, I just want to go out there and train well and play well for the team.”
Leeds have named an unchanged 19-man squad for tomorrow’s game (7.30pm).
Wane confirmed that Greg Burke and Scott Taylor are set to play on dual-registration for Leigh, at home to Keighley, tomorrow.
Wigan (likely): S Tomkins; Charnley, Goulding, Thornley, Richards; Powell, Smith; Flower, McIlorum, Mossop, Hansen, Farrell, O’Loughlin. Subs (four from): Lauaki, Tuson, Crosby, Hughes, Spencer, L.Tomkins.