Ignore the 'hype' about Wigan Warriors and deliver, says captain Thomas Leuluai
Captain Thomas Leuluai says Wigan need to avoid the “hype” and get down to business tomorrow night.
The Warriors have been widely tipped for a successful campaign, with bookmakers and many pundits expecting them and St Helens to again lead the way in 2021.
The recruitment of Jai Field and John Bateman has heightened expectations and both are in the frame to play against Super League newcomers Leigh tomorrow, in a televised match at Leeds.
And new skipper Leuluai says it’s time for them to deliver on the pitch.
“I don’t buy into all that hype,” said the 35-year-old Kiwi halfback.
“I know a lot has been said about the squad we’ve got but, from my experience, I know it’s not what you’ve got on paper it’s what you do on the field.
“Yes we’ve got a talented squad. But I’ve played in other talented squads that didn’t deliver. We have to perform on the night.”
Leuluai is set to partner Harry Smith at halfback tomorrow night after Jackson Hastings was left out of the provisional 21-man squad.
Electric No.1 Bevan French and centre Oliver Gildart are also missing, along with injured wingers Liam Marshall and Dom Manfredi, forcing coach Adrian Lam to play something of a makeshift backline.
Zak Hardaker will revert to full-back, Willie Isa may switch from the forwards to the centre, and Field – usually a halfback – may play on the wing.
Lam will then have to decide whether to play Jake Bibby at centre or wing and, with the other spot likely to go to either James O'Donnell (centre) or Umyla Hanley (winger).
Asked whether they may need to win ugly against the Centurions, Leuluai replied: “That’s not the plan. We want to play well. If it’s not an ideal game and we have to do the tough stuff for 80 minutes we will.
“But we’ll still aim to play our game and not do it ugly.
“All the young kids have stepped up and that’s what happens here.
“When Ollie P and Morgan (Smithies) came in, people were asking me who they were. Two weeks later, they’ve made a name for themselves.
“And so I have full faith in them if they’re selected.”
Leuluai is preparing for a hostile encounter as the competition newcomers try and make an early impression by claiming a major scalp.
Many are predicting Leigh will finish bottom this season and Leuluai reckons they will have a point to prove.
“I would if it was me in that position,” he said. “I’d be thinking like that, I’m sure they’ll be using it as fuel to get them ready.”
Kick-off is 8.15pm.