Sutton taking nothing for granted
A list of contrasts and sub-plots has provided a prologue to tonight's derby as absorbing as any other.
St Helens have won their last seven games, Wigan have lost four of the last five.
Wigan haven’t won a non-Easter derby in the league since 2007.
A Saints win at the DW will lift them into third place, above Wigan and a world away from the patchy form which saw their fans call for Keiron Cunningham’s head earlier in the season.
And there’s the Matty Smith saga.
The St Helens-born Wigan half-back is expected to be back at his hometown club next season, but there has been no formal announcement.
But one Wigan player says, actually, the derby build-up is rather simple.
Prop Ryan Sutton, an almost ever-present in 2016, says when Referee Ben Thaler’s whistle goes tonight, one of the Warriors’ players objectives will stand above all the others.
“Attack. Simple,” he explained.
“We’ve worked on it over the past few weeks. Against Wakefield we did well and even though overall we weren’t good against Castleford, we attacked well.”
Sutton, despite being in the infancy of his career at 21, has only missed four games so far this season.
Mucking in at the coalface during a season which has seen Wigan suffer with a catalogue of injuries which would make the Argos one seem like a pamphlet, his presence has still been on merit rather than necessity.
But the academy product, who made his debut in 2014, insists he would never take his place for granted, and was reminded he shouldn’t when he was rested for the 60-12 defeat of Wakefield a fortnight ago.
“I wasn’t happy,” he admitted on missing out on the Wakefield game.
“You get paid to do it at the end of the day so to get pulled out, you lose a bit of consistency. It was good to get back in (against Castleford last week) – it’s what I want to do week-in-week-out.”
Last weekend’s 36-22 defeat to Castleford contributed to Warriors slipping to third in the Super 8s, and in danger of being caught by Saints tonight.
But Wigan’s outlook would look much healthier with a win, as not only would they keep their arch enemy at arm’s length, but they would also take a big step towards securing a play-off spot ahead of the break for next weekend’s Challenge Cup Final.
But for coach Shaun Wane, working around injuries is still proving to be a problem. He will be without captain Sean O’Loughlin, out with a hamstring injury, and Dom Manfredi’s season was ended with an ACL injury against the Tigers.
Lee Mossop also misses out tonight, with Oliver Gildart, Joe Bretherton and Jake Shorrocks returning to the squad.
And Sutton admits a constantly changing matchday squad has had an impact on the season so far.
“I don’t think we’ve had the same team for a game with players coming in and out so to get some consistency in the team will be good for us,” he said.