Wigan St Patrick's and St Jude's prepare for Challenge Cup tests

Wigan St Pat's will be hoping to avoid  an upset in the first round of the Challenge Cup this weekend. Photo: Brian King
Wigan St Pat's will be hoping to avoid an upset in the first round of the Challenge Cup this weekend. Photo: Brian King

There is little chance St Pat’s underestimating the task that lies ahead when they go up against Leigh East in the Challenge Cup on Saturday.

The Division One side will be just as eager as their rivals, in Division Three to pick up a win whilst living up to the favourites tag that their higher league status will give them.

Lead coach Ryan Powell has first hand knowledge of the East’s coaching set up, and he knows they will make life tough for the Wigan visitors.

“Leigh East has always been a tough place to visit,” he said.

“And with Martin Roden involved, they will be even tougher. We played together at Leigh and have always got on well. I have every respect for what he does and his playing philosophy and am under no illusions with regard to what will be required of us if we are to win this one.

“I confess I don’t know too much about East players, but since it is a first hit up for us and them, it won’t matter much. They will be in the same boat as us in so much they will be trying to regenerate the club and bring positive changes to the culture. They will also want to start with a win.

“To that end, myself, John Ellis, Ryan Baxter and the other coaches are all working hard to put right what went wrong last year, whilst building on the positive we have as we strive to take the club forwards.”

The Wigan team will be looking to give run outs to their two new overseas signings in Ricki Allan and Snow Velvin whilst there may also be a debut for new signing Wilf Arrowsmith.

“Wilf is an ex-East player, who played for Lancashire Under-17s a couple of years ago,” said Powell.

“He has been out of the game but has come back to try his luck with us and so far he has looked terrific in training. Whether that is enough to push him into the 19-mas squad that we will name late on Thursday, remains to be seen, but he has a good a chance as anyone else.

“Selection will be based on how well players have been working in training and the commitment they have given, as well as a consideration of how they have performed for us in the past so that we get the right blend when it comes to the game time.”

Meanwhile, Wigan St Judes welcome Crosfields to Parsons Meadow for an all Division Two clash that certainly promises plenty of action.

Last season Crosfields finished third in the division and seemed favourites to claim the third promotion spot in the play-offs. But they came a cropper at home to Saddleworth losing by 50 points, before the Oldham team denied St Judes promotion with an exceptional pay off final win to claim that third promotion place.

St Judes had finished fourth and with each winning their home games by similar margins, there is very little to choose between the sides.

New coach Gary McMahon gets the chance to see his players in meaningful action for the first time, and with home advantage they will start favourites, especially since they enjoyed a worthwhile 46-30 win over Oldham St Annes in their first warm-up game last weekend, whilst Crosfields were well beaten by their great rivals Woolston Rovers in their pre-season friendly.

St Judes have narrowly missed out on promotion over the past couple of seasons, and there is little doubt that attaining first division status again is their main priority.

Saturday’s game won’t help them achieve that goal, but it will give McMahon the opportunity to see his side in action against a team that will inevitably be one of their promotion rivals in 2019.

Players such as Barry Rothwell at full back or on the wing, props Ken Owen and Nathan Moore, or hooker Danny Clayton, are staking a claim to lead the way in the pack whilst Brett Taberner could be a threat in the second row along with powerhouse Connor Parkinson in the centre. Young Gary McMahon and Danny Fallon did well at half back against St Annes, and could get the nod this weekend.