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The 18th man column: ‘Escare can be Wigan Warriors’ pocket rocket in their Grand Final bid’

Morgan Escare got a starting role last week
Morgan Escare got a starting role last week

Our 18th man columnists discuss Escare’s role, rule changes and which stadiums they would love to see Wigan play at...

How would you use Morgan Escare in Wigan’s remaining matches?

Sean Lawless: As much as I would like to see Escare play longer minutes, I think the key for Escare in the semi-final and hopefully final is the short spells we have seen him play recently.

It is frustrating to see such a talented player being held back on the bench for so long but against tiring players on big pitches like the DW and hopefully Old Trafford, the little French man could be the pocket rocket we need for the last 15 minutes in a game. For the Hull game, however, if Tomkins needs resting then I have no qualms with seeing Escare given the full 80 minutes again.

Darren Wrudd: I like Escare and would love to see him spelled for longer at full-back. Perhaps come off the bench for the last 10 minutes of the first half and then leave him in place.

Swapping Tomkins from full-back to halves in the process. I would be happy to have him on the field for 80 minutes if need be as his energy is infectious.

Next year should be interesting for Morgan though. A utility back with no permanent place but plenty of scope, who knows what will happen but for now give the lad some game time.

Jon Lyon: I’m sorry Morgan, but I wouldn’t change a thing right now. It’s too close to the Grand Final to start making major changes to the team and the way we play, so would happily see Escare brought off the bench when teams are tired to have the impact he has been having. Sam is playing too well to mess around and Leuluai and Powell have settled into their job swap, with Manfredi and Davies doing well on the wings, so lets leave well alone.

We have to accept though that if we don’t give Morgan more game time next year then he will be off, so if the plan is to play Zak at fullback in 2019 then Adrian Lam has some thinking to do.

Robert Kenyon: I’d use him at full-back and put Sam to 7. Morgan Escare is our most exciting and potent player, every time he gets the ball he’s dangerous and a joy to watch in a dull game. He’s probably not the best defensively but we have a very good defence anyway, he wouldn’t have to tackle many people breaking through, but him at full-back running wide would scare the life out of defenders.

David Bailey: Despite his man of the match performance at Huddersfield from full-back, Escare’s impact when coming on late against tired defences seems to have cemented his role for the remainder of Shaun Wane’s tenure. It was fantastic to hear Morgan has committed to 2019 with Wigan and he may get a more active role under Adrian Lam as the guy is obviously a quality player and worries defences whenever he takes the field. There’s always the worry of an injury to a key player but having the likes of Escare and Tomkins versatility available means one less concern for the Warriors.

Super League clubs are considering changes for next year such as Golden Point, reduced subs and a stop-clock – what changes would you welcome and are there any you wouldn’t?

Sean Lawless: The reduced interchanges and stop clock are changes for the good of the game. They are aimed at speeding the game up and ensuring that there will be more tired bodies on a field later in a game, both would be realty exciting changes for the game and fit well with the new era for Super League. One rule I can’t see working in Super League is two referees, although I would support it – we just simply don’t have the talent pool of referees in this country to make it work like the NRL.

Darren Wrudd: I would welcome the stop clock and perhaps a harder line on certain time delaying tactics. It’s amazing how when under pressure, a Warrington player gets cramp to stop a drop out for a few minutes.

The game is fast enough for the players as it is, but fitter teams with better training are almost penalised by not being able to keep up the pace they would like.

Diving and play acting to get penalties should see a yellow card. Sin bin them and it will stop pretty quickly.

Not really a fan of golden point in the rounds but it is dramatic in the knock out games. But please, please, lets have a proper play the ball. Regain your feet, foot on the ball or penalty the other way. If a tackler is prevented from getting out of the way to glean a penalty, let the game go on as the situation is manufactured by the dummy half.

Too much play acting has crept into the game and that needs to stop. I would not welcome a reduction in substitutions at all though. The game is getting harder and faster and the substitutions can protect player welfare when need be.

Jon Lyon: I think reduced substitutions are necessary if we are to compete at international level. Our forwards need to get used to competing more intensely for more minutes for us to finally overcome the Aussies. The same applies for the stop clock; drop outs are becoming a joke with the time taken to restart the game and we need to get used to not getting an extended breather every time the ball is out of play.

I would be dead set against golden point being brought into league games. Draws are few and far between but when battled for, a point is just reward for a hard fought game, and extra time is usually just a drop goal competition, which isn’t fascinating for anyone to watch, and an awful way to lose.

After the Billy Slater saga this week, I think its time to bring back the shoulder charge. As always, foul play should be punished appropriately, but it seems wrong the player with the ball can charge a defender but not the other way round. As long as its front on and contact isn’t above shoulder height then let’s bring back a bit of contact.

Robert Kenyon: I’d reduce the substitutions but increase subs on the bench. At the start of Super League the bench would consist of two forward and two backs, then along the line it went to three forwards and a utility player, nowadays there are four props on the bench. I rather see more subs on the bench but fewer substitutions so that they would be used tactically and not just spelling players and subbing by the clock. Also, you’d get tired props and halfbacks taking advantage of that.

I’d also only allow three goes with the video ref in which the captain of either team could ask the ref to review either an incident or a try.

Stop the mascots, I might sound like a killjoy but I think it makes us look cheap as a sport to have a load of kids dabbing and flossing in front of the players. I’d prefer to go like the NRL when the players run out into the field with the camera behind them with the players pumped up rather than having a player walk out with a lad who’s the same height as him holding hands.

Reduce the commentators on Sky to Eddie Hemings and one other, there’s too many involved and it stops the flow of the commentary. Get rid of Stuart Cummings, nobody wants to hear what the ref thinks. Take the microphone off the ref, nobody wants to hear hold/set/move all game, the only thing I want to hear the ref say all game is ‘play on’.

Clear up the obstruction rule, whereby the onus is on the defending player to select the correct runner, rather just run into the runner and dive on the floor as a result and ruling out a try, or maybe not allow the ref to look for obstruction on the video ref. I don’t know, it needs sorting because rugby league has become one dimensional because teams are too scared to have dummy runners.

Time limit on play the balls, players now seem to want to go down injured or tired and stop the game rather than playing the ball then being treated as they used to, which slows the game down massively.

They should give the ball for someone else to play a couple of meters away from them as soon as possible if they need treatment.

I’d allow people to tap and go themselves if there are no markers, I’d allow striking at the play the ball too, we have become sterile as a sport and I think this would stop this.

I’d also make teams go back eight meters, so that attacks were running from deeper rather than being flat with everyone doing the same move.

I could go on and people may call me a Luddite but I like change when it’s for the better and not for the sake of it.

David Bailey: I’ll be honest. I’m not a fan of the golden point. I mean I know some things are better decided on the day, Grand Finals, Million Pound games but games with a golden point by and large end as a drop goal-fest. I’d be happier if it was decided by the first try as teams would have to produce some rugby to triumph and there would be less milking of penalties. I think reduced substations would help the fitter teams as the big men wouldn’t get as much rest, and I’m all for the shot clock.

Wigan could be playing at the Nou Camp next year. A hypothetical: if you could see Wigan play at any stadium in the world, where would it be and why?

Sean Lawless: If Wigan could play in one stadium in the world, it would have to be the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Of all the stadiums in the world why that one? Well can you imagine a few thousand Wiganers in Dublin for a weekend – what could possibly go wrong?! Perhaps my favourite stadium though and one that would be great to see Wigan play at would be the US Bank stadium in Minneapolis, home of the Vikings. By far the best stadium I have ever been to!

Darren Wrudd: I love the thought of pushing boundaries in sport and if we were to push, I would go all the way. It would be easy to pick Lang Park, Brisbane which you may know as the Suncorp Stadium after its sponsors, but I would go that step further if we could hypothetically generate a big crowd. Century Link Field, home to the Seattle Seahawks is possibly one of the most fantastic stadium atmospheres out there.

Having held the Guinness record for the loudest roar from a crowd, the set up is most dramatic and capped at one end by the Seattle skyline. I would love to go and experience that and with a Wigan team on the field it would be fantastic.

Jon Lyon: A trip to the Nou Camp would be spectacular, although I’ve heard the views from the top tier are much like watching ants from a shed roof, not that we’re likely to fill the near 100,000 capacity.

I would love to see Wigan play at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane. I wasn’t there in 1994 to see Wigan’s greatest moment beating a Brisbane team full of internationals in their own back yard at ANZ Stadium, and would love the chance to see us play there again one day, hopefully with the same result.

Robert Kenyon: I’d love to see Wigan playing at The Aviva Stadium in Dublin, or Lansdowne Road as it used to be called. That way we could all have a session on the Guinness and go and watch Wigan. I’ve watched Wigan in London, Edinburgh and Cardiff so it would be nice to watch them in Dublin.

David Bailey: Wigan have already played at some iconic venues – Anfield, Twickenham, Murrayfield, The ANZ Stadium, The Allianz Stadium, The County Stadium Milwaukee, The Douglas Bowl and Vetch Field. If I had to choose a stadium out of any in the world for Wigan to play at though I’d be edging towards the Maracana in Mexico because of the history of the stadium. That being said if I could choose one stadium from the past for one more game it would be Central Park obviously, with the night against Manly living long in the memory especially.