Our 18th man columnists discuss the Wire showdown, team selection and Leeds’ coaching change...
Wigan-Warrington - who do you think will win?
David Bailey: I might as well toss a coin for this one if the last two meetings are anything to go by.
Wigan produced their best performance of the season at Magic Weekend, and then the Wolves exacted revenge in the Challenge Cup by nilling the Warriors.
Both sides have had a little bit of a wobble since the last meeting, but both have produced some great results too.
There’s more than two points at stake as both Wigan and Warrington vie for second place in the table ahead of the competition split.
Obviously with my cherry-and-white tinted specs on I will go for a close Wigan win. The Warriors were too good for a poor Leeds side last week and didn’t really get out of second gear, but looked to attack at every opportunity.
Sean Lawless: Given the fact Wigan are marketing the game as a redemption game and Shaun Wane has been very vocal about how important this game is, I expect a Magic Weekend-type performance.
It feels like a must-win game for Wigan, not because of their position in the table but they have a point to prove after the Challenge Cup humiliation.
Darren Wrudd: It’s a big game against the Wolves.
If we are to challenge for top spot, the pressure is really beginning to mount.
I do actually think we will win this game.
Not because I have my cherry-and-white glasses on, but the way we have played in the last few games showed off-field news and announcements really have caused some upset, and yet we now seem galvanised against a season tailing off to nothing.
We showed some proper spirit in putting Leeds to the sword – however off their game they were.
That spirit is the best building block for an assault on the campaign at this time of year and we will see some real effort tomorrow.
Add to that of course the same Warrington side nilled us in the Challenge Cup to spoil our Wembley wishes for 2018, and the added spice will lead to some pretty determined attitudes to make sure we put that behind us.
Jon Lyon: I am looking forward confidently to a Wigan win over Warrington.
Since the Wire beat us comfortably in the Challenge Cup, their results have been nothing to write home about, with a home loss and two unspectacular wins.
Wigan’s two most recent wins against Hull and Leeds have seen us reaching something more like the form we hope for, with a much improved defence and scoring a few points to boot.
Having Ben Flower back is a big boost for our pack.
Warrington will have quite a few players back who were missing from their win over Salford, but I think Shaun Wane will have our boys fired up for revenge for the Cup defeat where we were well below par. This could be a classic.
Ben Flower is back, Dan Sarginson and Romain Navarrete will be available next week, Joe Greenwood’s injury isn’t serious... who misses out when those players are available?
David Bailey: It really would have been a tough one to call had they all been available for Warrington, but Romain Navarette’s ban for his clumsy tackle against Leeds has probably decided it.
I think Ben Flower would have been drafted back in regardless as both him and Tony Clubb have been our most effective props this season and work well in tandem.
Wigan have a wealth of options in the back row.
Joe Greenwood has slotted in and there’s already Liam Farrell and Willie Isa, who started against Leeds, so the back row looks pretty congested .
When you take into account John Bateman and Sean O’Loughlin...I mean, who do you leave out?
If it was my decision I would leave Bateman in the centres and have Morgan Escare on the bench as he can change a game if Plan A isn’t working out.
I do have that niggling feeling, though, that for whatever reason Wane doesn’t fancy Escare and he may be the one to miss out once again.
Sean Lawless: I guess with Navarette missing and Greenwood ruled out with a rolled anke, the decision for Wane is perhaps made simpler.
However, one player who I do think deserves a shot in a ‘big game’ is Cal Field.
Limited opportunities so far this season due to injuries, but I have been very impressed by him again this year, and I think we have Ryan Sutton’s replacement already!
Darren Wrudd: Tough one that. We performed really well against Leeds and were difficult to break down, so everyone was disciplined on their defence and attacking duties.
Ben Flower will happily slot back in for Greenwood, who has rolled an ankle.
And however hard he worked last week, Greenwood was obviously on autopilot.
Not surprising when he has not played with us before and the structures and calls will all be new to him.
So that’s fine, but if Sarginson had made the cut, I would perhaps have gone without him.
As good as he is rated at the club I can’t seem to find the enthusiasm that they do. Too often I feel Sarge closes down the space that his winger has to play with, and then does not pass until there is no room left.
If he would straighten up sooner and draw the opposition wing away from the whitewash, he would be 10 times the opponent than his defensive efforts alone show him to be.
Jon Lyon: As much as I prefer John Bateman in the second row, he is still twice the centre Sarginson is, and with everyone available I would leave Sarge out full strength.
We won’t lose much in attack and defensively it’s a no-brainer.
It’s a harder choice regarding Flower’s inclusion.
Benny has been in great form this season so I would definitely have him in the first 17.
Navarette and Gabe Hamlin have played really well now they’ve had more of a chance in the team, and it would be a confidence blow to drop them when playing so well.
I would probably take the opportunity to give Taulima Tautai a break as he hasn’t had quite the impact off the bench recently that we are used to. Hopefully this will give him a rest and also a gee-up.
Were Leeds right to sack Brian McDermott?
David Bailey: It’s a tough call to sack a coach who has been so successful, but it seems that Gary Hetherington has decided he simply cannot wait to see how things pan out and wait to see if Leeds are in the Super 8’s or the qualifiers.
Leeds were simply awful last week – Wigan racked up a big score without being really tested.
That said, I am not sure if a new coach will have the time to bed in his ideas and have a fresh approach and I can’t see what else an assistant would offer differently to make a sudden impact.
It was the same when people were calling for Wane to leave following his announcement.
In all likelihood, it would have meant John Winder, Matty Peet and Darrell Goulding would have run things for the remainder of the season, but would they have changed too much from Wane’s way of thinking? I doubt it very much.
Leeds, though, were always going to be in transition following Burrow and McGuire’s departures and pretty much the last of the golden era no longer being McDermott’s on-field coaches.
I would have given him until the end of the season but, with the form of some of the teams at the top end of the Championship, we could be in a situation where more than one current Super League side is relegated – and I am sure Leeds are desperate to avoid that fate.
Sean Lawless: For me, Hetherington set a precedent back in 2016 by not sacking McDermott when they ended up in the Qualifiers.
I am not a big fan of McDermott in particular the way he carries himself in public and interviews, but he is successful in getting a side to peak at the right time.
Perhaps Ian Lenagan has got to Hetherington, he knows he may need a side to perform for a season to win the Grand Final in future – not just in October.
Darren Wrudd: No, if I had not yet thought that Gary Hetherington had lost the plot over his staunch stance to hold our sport back against popular opinion, then I certainly would now.
Brian McDermott, love or hate him, has been a fantastic coach for Leeds and, speaking to friends over the Pennines, they inform me that most Leeds fans are dumb-struck with how ridiculous a decision has been made.
I can see Leeds falling in a heap now and playing in the Championship next year, and Hetherington blaming Ian Lenagan and all for their ’power grab’.
When all along the foolish actions of a childish rich man has robbed Leeds of a great asset who was so heart and soul committed to the club that I really still don’t believe it.
The big question now is surely where on earth Mr McDermott will turn up next.
Lenagan gave him his chance at first team coaching at London, so he obviously rates him…………mmmm.
Jon Lyon: Gary Hetherington will always do what he wants, but I feel it’s a little harsh on McDermott.
While coming across a little prickly in his interviews, making it hard to feel too much sympathy for him, his record at Leeds is beyond compare.
And I think he should have been shown a little more respect in relation to his past achievements.
Leeds are probably going to have to promote a temporary coach from within at least until the Super 8’s start, and surely McDermott would have had more of a chance than Barry Eaton of inspiring a change in form.
Looking at their remaining fixtures, I don’t see Huddersfield winning more games than Leeds, regardless of who is the coach, so Leeds should make the top eight anyway.
Leeds have had it tough with injuries recently and have still only lost most games by a small margin, apart from against us.
Having dragged them from the middle 8’s the season before to Grand Final victory last year, I feel McDermott at least deserved to be given to the end of the year.