Talking Rugby: Wigan Warriors V St Helens has to be the greatest derby game in Super League
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The Good Friday Derby between the two is just an iconic fixture, and probably the biggest match of the regular season.
There is no other rugby game like it, with nothing coming close to reaching the same levels.
It creates such an unbelievable atmosphere, and is a clash that everyone looks out for at the beginning of the season.
There has been a bit of debate this week, with some arguing that the Hull Derby is the game of the day.
It may be another fantastic fixture, and there is no doubt about how much it means, but it isn’t quite on the same level as Wigan V Saints.
Even without any bias, it’s hard to see how Hull KR V Hull FC is the bigger match, well at least outside of East Yorkshire.
It might just be because we have been brought up surrounded by it, but there are so many iconic moments that immediately spring to mind in the North West fixture.
It’s insane to think that Liam Farrell’s last minute winning try was over 10 years ago, where has the time gone?
This game is huge at any time, but the fact that the two sides currently sit first and second in the Super League table gives it that extra bit of spice.
There is no doubt that St Helens are the favourites heading into the match, they’ve been a class above everyone for the last few years.
They have the dangerous combination of being solid at the back, but having a bit of magic in attack.
A few teams have been able to get close to them, but in the end they have always shrugged off any pressure.
The blend of exciting youngsters, superb signings, and some experienced pros, makes them such an impressive unit.
Wigan aren’t on that level just yet, but Matty Peet has certainly put them on that path as well.
There is a flourish of young players who have plenty of experience under their belts, and will be more than up for such a big game.
It will be the first taste of the derby for a lot of the new players, and they certainly have the opportunity to write their names in folklore history.
Cade Cust could really take control of things alongside Thomas Leuluai.
Meanwhile, this is Jai Field’s biggest test so far this campaign.
Many teams have tried and failed to find a way to stop him, and he’s proven that all he needs is half a chance to cause some damage.
His hat-trick against Wakefield was another reminder why he is currently the favourite to win Man of Steel, as he took his chances.
He has also been composed in defence, especially under high kicks.
St Helens will provide him with his toughest test at both ends of the pitch, and he’ll truly need to be at his best.
On current form, even the strength of the St Helens defence might struggle to contain him.
If Field does have a quiet afternoon, then Wigan also have Bevan French to deploy.
With 120 minutes under his belt in the last two games, he’s been slowly getting back up to speed.
It’d probably be unrealistic to think after such a short amount of time he will suddenly return to his scintillating best, but that doesn't mean he won't be capable of creating something in the big moments.
He will certainly be a player who the opposition will be preparing for.
A worry for Wigan could be a few shortages at the back.
Kai Pearce-Paul is out with a lengthy injury, while Iain Thornley is also out after picking up a shoulder problem against Wakefield.
Liam Marshall is also unavailable as well.
Meanwhile, Zak Hardaker has been dropped from the squad for this week (more on that later).
French will most likely stay on the wing, while Jake Bibby could also be shifted out wide on the other side.
Abbas Miski could be played there, but with only one game under his belt so far this season, it would be a big ask to put him in for the Good Friday Derby.
It seems likely that Willie Isa and John Bateman could both be asked to play at centre, with the pair having done well there when previously filling in.
On the Hardaker situation, Peet has made the correct decision.
He’s acted accordingly for a player who has “dipped” below the club’s standards away from the field, but nor has he blown the situation out of proportion.
Hardaker hasn’t been excluded or isolated for making a mistake, as he’s still training with the team and will be back in the squad next week.
He’s accepted and understands Peet’s decision, meaning it is something that everyone will move on from pretty quickly.
It’s unfortunate that it has occurred ahead of such a big game, but the expectations have been clearly set by the club, and a strong message has now been sent.
Following the St Helens game, Wigan take on Wakefield on Easter Monday.
Despite a convincing scoreline against them last time out, it was a far from easy game for Peet’s side.
Trinity will certainly be looking to get their own back at the DW Stadium, following their Challenge Cup exit.
This period is like no other in the game, and is a stern test for everyone involved.
It’s certainly a time that can help to set the tone heading into the next few months of the season.