Talking RL: Subplots will add to the derby spice
I watched the last derby in a quiet bar while on holiday in France.
Which was a rare treat because – despite what you think when you read my reports – I rarely get to watch Wigan with a beer in my hand.
It was a disappointing result for the Warriors, but perhaps that shouldn’t have come as too much of a shock.
Because it is a quirk of these derby league games that Shaun Wane has won every Easter derby since being a part of the first-team – as assistant or head coach – yet not in the corresponding game later in the year, played at either St Helens or Wigan. There is no rhyme or reason for it; it’s just one of those odd coincidences that sport throws up.
Tomorrow night, Wigan get a golden chance to change all that, in a game with plenty of intriguing sub-plots.
Matty Smith will be leaving one club for the other – though the off-season move has yet to be confirmed – how will fans from both sides react?
Will Saints get the win which leapfrogs them ahead of Wigan in the table?
Will Frank-Paul Nuuausala ask if he can become Facebook friends with Louis McCarthy-Scarsbrook?
But above all of that, of course, we have Wigan against St Helens, two fierce rugby league rivals battling it out yet again, in a game which should ignite this Super-8s campaign.
Saints haven’t lost for more than two months, which alone must breed confidence.
The Warriors, by contrast, have lost four of their last five matches.
Form, then, is firmly with the visitors. But look at the personnel involved, and in my view Wigan edge it.
Try it. Go through both likely line-ups, and pick one fictitious squad – full-back to bench – from the available players, and count up how many you have from each club.
“Saints have some good players and some average ones, like every other team,” says Sam Tomkins.
And he’s right.
If Wigan muscle up down the middle, sharpen their combinations, and play with a pace and energy which was lacking last week, they can end Saints’ seven-game winning streak and put a four-point buffer between themselves, in third, and fourth-spot.
It is shaping as an interesting game, and I’m looking forward to it. Even if this time, I won’t have a beer in my hand.
Applaud Denny for his stance
Last Friday night Denny Solomona scored a hat-trick which took his tally to 31 tries – but it’s what he did afterwards which most impressed me.
One of my colleagues asked him whether – after Phil Clarke had floated the idea – he would consider pledging his allegiance to England once he qualifies through the three-year residency rule.
“No,” he replied. “Only Samoa.”
If only every player had the same attitude to international eligibility!
Congratulations to Leigh for their win against Salford last weekend. I know we’re supposed to be rivals and all that, I know their fans hate Wigan, but I was honestly pleased for them. I hope they are in Super League next season.
Fans can make big difference
As you might imagine, I get a few fans getting in touch to offer their views – especially after Wigan lose!
Some we print in our letters pages. Some we can’t - they would make Roy Chubby Brown blush - and many times, they just want a rant because they feel they can’t make a difference.
Well, now they can make a difference.
Wigan are asking supporters to take an online survey and if you haven’t done it yet, it’s worth taking part.
Several Wigan amateurs are in the north west representative team taking on the Canadian national side in Toronto on Saturday.
Good luck to them.
Though why the team needs 10 support staff and officials - count them, 10! - I’m not sure! Still, good trip if you can get it.
Dan delivered silver service!
Away from rugby league, haven’t the Olympics been great to watch?
We aren’t a nation of chest-thumping and flag-waving, but it seems Team GB’s success in Rio has brought the patriotism out in everyone.
And,we had a Wiganer - Aspull’s Dan Bibby - win silver in the Rugby Sevens.
They were well-beaten by Fiji in the final but I really enjoyed following their progress, which included impressive wins against New Zealand, Argentina and South Africa along the way.
The Sevens was fun to watch. I find rugby union much more interesting when they score more tries, kick the ball less, and have fewer players on the pitch. Wait a minute...
One of my Yorkshire colleagues said he felt Joe Cobb was “doing well” during Wigan’s loss at Castleford.
Cobb wasn’t the reason Wigan lost, and he should have had more support from the other officials, but I felt he was poor.
And judging from the fact he is taking charge of a third-tier game this weekend - not even a Qualifiers match - I’m guessing his bosses at the RFL agreed with me.