Talking Rugby: A big test awaits Wigan Warriors for a place in the Challenge Cup semi-finals
In the last round, they overcame Salford Red Devils with a 20-0 win at the DW Stadium.
It wasn’t a game for the ages, and many probably will struggle to remember it now, but there were positives for Wigan.
With the visitors unable to score, it was certainly the best defensive performance from Matty Peet’s side.
While Salford didn’t help themselves in key moments, the Warriors looked strong and were quick to react to situations.
They also remained alert in attack when the rare opportunities came down the other end of the field.
A victory on Sunday would see them progress to the semi-finals, which is set to be a good day at Elland Road, with the triple-header of games taking place, including the Women’s Challenge Cup final.
Prior to that they must be at their best against a solid Wakefield side.
In the recent past, Wigan haven’t had the greatest of times when visiting Belle Vue.
They’ve been on the end of a number of defeats, both under Adrian Lam and Shaun Wane.
Peet will be hoping to change their fortunes in his first trip there as head coach.
There’s a number of reasons why Wigan may have struggled when playing there.
Firstly, it’s simply a tough atmosphere for away teams.
It’s an old school rugby ground, which has an intimidating edge to it.
Similar to Castleford Tigers at the Jungle, if the home fans are up for it, the atmosphere can make it an incredibly hard place to be.
Secondly, Wakefield just seem to have the ability to out play Wigan at Belle Vue, thanks to their physicality, which always proves to be hard to handle.
Willie Poching’s side enter this game in great form, having won their last four games.
After starting the season with four straight defeats, they seem to have found their feet, with teams struggling to match them at the moment.
Half of their recent wins came against Warrington at the Halliwell Jones Stadium, beating them in both Super League and the last round of the Challenge Cup.
They showed great character in the latter game, coming from 12-0 behind to book their place in the quarter-finals.
Meanwhile, last time out they overcame Salford 30-24.
Despite the win, they did show some fragility in that game, as they let a half time lead of 24-4 be heavily reduced.
Tom Johnstone went over for a brace in that game, as he continued his strong try-scoring form.
He currently sits in fifth in the Super League leaderboard, with seven in total.
Both teams will be well rested heading into this match, after a long turnaround between games.
It feels like a lifetime ago since Wigan narrowly beat Hull FC 19-18 at the DW Stadium.
If the Challenge Cup tie against Salford was one to forget, then this was certainly a game to remember.
For the second time this season, Harry Smith’s boot provided Wigan with a late victory, as he kicked a winning drop goal.
The Warriors led for most of the first half, before two quickfire tries from Hull put them on the backfoot.
Their attitude must be praised, as they stuck with it and didn’t let their heads drop.
Jai Field continues to shine and be the difference in some games.
It’s been very rare this season when he hasn’t stolen the headlines.
His incredible pace and quick feet is filling teams with dread every time he collects the ball.
The way he is able to cut through lines is breathtaking and is quickly becoming a fans favourite because of it.
Something fans might get to see this weekend is exactly how he and Bevan French fit in around each other.
Due to injuries to Liam Marshall and Willie Isa in the Hull game, the plan to use both of them in their best positions couldn’t be executed, but it could now happen in the Wakefield game.
French ended up making his return off the bench and onto the wing in last week’s game.
It was great to see him back out there, with the fans giving him a warm reception.
He’s demonstrated great mental strength to be able to return to the club after what has been such a difficult period of his life.
After the game he said he wants to repay the club for their support and get back to his best as quickly as possible.
Once he’s back up and running, he’s going to be another player that opposing teams will be fearful of and will continually get fans off their seats.
Another player who it will be good to see back in action is Iain Thornley.
It was gutting to see the centre go off injured so early in the opening game of the season against Hull KR.
During his time on the sidelines he’s been showing his class in the community, helping out at Ashton Bears by undertaking some water running duties in one of their recent games.
He is clearly a big part of Peet’s plans after being brought back to the club in the off-season, and it will be great to see him fit back in.
Last week he featured for the reserves, which is a huge positive as he prepares himself for his return to the first team.