Big match preview: Why KC Stadium is a happy hunting ground
Shaun Wane heads to a happy hunting ground tonight - hoping to keep Wigan on track for a home semi-final.
Defeat at the KC Stadium, coupled with a Warrington win against Widnes, would effectively end the Warriors’ hopes of finishing in the top-two.
Hull FC have recalled the seven Challenge Cup-winning players rested for last week’s 31-10 loss at St Helens.
And with a trophy to parade to the fans, there will no doubt be a ‘feelgood factor’ at the KC.
Wane, meanwhile, is looking to get their form back on track after last week’s 8-6 loss to Widnes.
But he may be able to take comfort and confidence from the knowledge he has never lost in six previous trips to the KC in charge.
As well as five wins as head coach, he also took control in 2010 - when Michael Maguire was Down Under to be with his dying father.
Wane played down the significance of the statistic, saying: “I like the place.
“We go there and we seem to turn up, the players play really well and the atmosphere is good.
“But it’s nothing to do with us and that ground, that’s just a quirk.”
Matty Smith returns to the Wigan side while Lewis Tierney keeps his place on the wing, ahead of Oliver Gildart.
“We’re still missing some big personnel but we’ll still turn up and have a good go at Hull,” added Wane.
Hull FC recruited heavily in the off-season, bringing in Frank Pritchard, Sika Manu, Mahe Fonua and ex-Warriors prop Scott Taylor.
And the move has paid off - they have spent most of the season near the top of the Super League ladder and, of course, they won at Wembley last month.
Wane says he has not been surprised by their upturn in form, having been on the periphery of silverware success for several years.
He said: “At the start of the year, I looked at their individuals and thought they can not fail.
“Frank Pritchard, Sika Manu, Fonua, Minichiello, Scott Taylor wanting to go back home... it was hard for them to fail. I’ve every respect for them.
“I think they’re a fantastic team, the players who Lee has brought in from overseas are outstanding, as well as the local players - ‘Tags’, Danny Houghton, Kirk Yeaman.
“He’s assembled a really good squad. Lee is a smart coach, he has done a fantastic job there, and he has key individuals playing well.
“Hull are the form team in the comp, they’ve been very fortunate with injuries, but they’re playing fantastic.
“So we’re under the pump – but we need to put them under the pump, we need to challenge them.”
Hull FC have won two of the three meetings with Wigan this season, including their most recent meeting – the Challenge Cup semi-final loss.
Wane has faced criticism about their attack, especially after last week’s loss to Widnes, but Lee Radford put the reaction into context.
“It’s becoming the norm now. Even when you’re sat third and fourth in the league they still want your head,” he said.
“You look at Keiron Cunningham. A month ago they were calling for everyone on his coaching staff and the players to be sacked and look where they’re sat.
“Shaun is no different, and I’ve got no doubt next year we might be in tough spots at times because we’ve now had success as well.
“That’s just modern day sport I think.”