Talking RL: Past lessons have had huge impact on start

Five games, five wins. Not bad for a team of slow starters!

Thursday, 16th March 2017, 11:00 am
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 11:10 am
Liam marshall on the run

Especially given the number of absences Shaun Wane has already had to deal with.

I honestly think the experiences last year – the fact they coped with an injury-crisis – have helped them now.

Not only in better-preparing the fringe players, but more in the calm confidence it has given everyone at the club.

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They know that, no matter who is out, they can achieve what they set out to do.

And when players with so much promise like Liam Marshall can step into the team, they certainly look well-equipped.

Thomas Leuluai will tell you his combination with players on his edge is just as important as his partnership with George Williams.

But there’s no doubting they compliment each other well – Leuluai with the composure, Williams adding the sparkle, both able to tackle and kick.

Joel Tomkins has returned from injury a different player, Sean O’Loughlin is reaping the rewards of a rare full off-season, and I’ve already nominated Morgan Escare as one of the best three signings made in the off-season, along with Catalans’ Greg Bird and Castleford’s Zak Hardaker.

Their perfect start marks their best return, in all competitions (and remember, the Challenge Cup used to be early in the year) since John Monie was at the helm in 1998.

I fully expect them to stretch that golden run when Huddersfield arrive at the DW Stadium this Sunday.

It should be a good event, with thousands of free tickets given to those involved in the Wigan run festival, and a whole heap of family-friendly activities planned.

The Giants are struggling, having been battered by Hull FC and nilled by Leigh in their last two outings.

But a word of caution.

Wigan were flying under Michael Maguire in 2010, and their first defeat? Against a poor Bradford side.

And in ‘98, they trampled over all-comers until falling to their first loss.... against Sheffield, in that Wembley game!

No disrespect to the Giants, but I imagine complacency may be Wigan’s biggest obstacle this weekend.

Wayne Bennett mentioned plans for a mid-season international against Samoa a while ago, but we only received confirmation yesterday.

The Test will take place in Sydney on May 6. Tickets go on sale next Tuesday.

Can you think of any other sport in which an international Test match – involving many players travelling across the world – would be confirmed with less than two months’ notice?

The fact this sport has only got two professional competitions in the world makes it even more frustrating!

As I’ve said before, it’s baffling that when it comes to the curve-balls, the groundbreaking, the thinking out of the box – Catalans, Toronto, Magic – rugby league is often very good.

But when it comes to getting the basics right? Well...

Incidentally, I’m told the England players from Wigan and Castleford will fly out the day after their meeting on Saturday, April 29; therefore they will only miss one Super League game (in round 13).

I imagine Cas’ fans will be keen to discover if their three Samoan internationals are called-up, too.

Mentioning Wigan and Cas, some are already tipping them to meet in the Grand Final in October. On current form, they certainly look the strongest candidates.

I said from the start Wigan looked best-equipped to win a title. I stand by that.

I also said Warrington would be slow starters (admittedly, I didn’t think they would be this slow).

But I’m not going to write anyone out of the mix yet. It’s too soon to declare this a two-horse race.

Remember, at a similar stage last year, Wigan went to Warrington and lost by a 30-point margin. Widnes were the pace-setters.

And we all remember how last season finished.

Enjoy the start, enjoy the form. Bask in the bragging rights. Wind up your mates at Warrington and St Helens.

But I’m not writing anyone off just yet!

Tonight, Warrington’s Kurt Gidley will be wearing a special ‘player cam’. Sky Sports wanted to use it in the World Club Series against Brisbane but, for whatever reason, it didn’t get the green-light in time.

The occasions when players have been mic’d up have offered an insight, and the ref’ cam’ gives a unique insight. I’ll be interested to see how it goes.

Tweet of the week.

That goes to Joe Burgess, who reacted to Liam Marshall’s four tries against Warrington on Thursday with this quip:

“Job centre me Monday, @LiamMarshall20 killlleedddddd it.”