The 18th Man column: How to fit best players into Wigan Warriors line-up?

Jai Field made his return last Friday nightJai Field made his return last Friday night
Jai Field made his return last Friday night
Our 18th Man Columnists give their predictions ahead of Wigan's trip to Hull KR, and more...

Hull KR away tonight - what do you want to see, a week before the St Helens derby?

Sean Lawless: A really good test for Wigan this evening, a test of whether their returning players can elevate performances ahead of the Saints game.

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The return of Farrell presents an excellence problem for Adrian Lam, how do you play Farrell, Bateman, Kai Pearce-Paul and Joe Shorrocks – they all deserve their place in the starting thirteen after recent performances.

I think we are now at the stage of the season were we need to see a settled side and settled positional choices, with Hastings back in the halves. A good performance and result is a minimum from this evening.

Robert Kenyon: I want to see us get through unscathed and I’d like to see Field get a bit of game time in order to play his best against Saints. Saints are a very good team and we will have to play as a team in order to beat them, I’ve thought all season that we haven’t clicked and we are playing a slick Saints side who play well together so we need to up our game, starting with the forwards laying the platform and making good ground and trying an offload every now and again.

Ste Ford: We really need to up the momentum during the game.

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Our play at times is pedestrian and unless we address this then Saints’ defence once again will smother us and walk away with the points once again.

Hastings at half back would also be a welcome move.

Jon Lyon: This will be a very tough game with Hull KR probably being the surprise package of the season.

Who would have predicted they would be 5th at this stage?

They have run Catalans very close twice recently and of course beaten us once already this year.

We ground out a tough win against Salford and will need more of that defensive resilience.

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Hopefully Zak and Jai Field will be fit enough for a little more time on the pitch this week, though we can’t push either too hard too fast.

If Hastings can move back fully into the halves then we should have the creativity to post some points with Marshall and either Hanley/Halsall in good form on the wings.

As always a good start is vital, if we can do that and be more expressive with the ball we could well sneak a tough win, which would be a great confidence boost ahead of the derby. Ultimately though, let’s hope we come through injury and suspension free!

Darren Wrudd: Absolutely no let up in pressure. Defensively we have a strong spirit and work ethic that few can match but in attack we can stutter, particularly close to the line when a few one up drives to try and crash over seems to be all we have until the last tackle kick.

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Perhaps a few grubber kicks through the line, chased hard, could create chances or repeat sets and this will tire teams and open things up.

No doubt Saints will be watching so give them plenty to think on.

Chip kicks over the defensive line, offloads, kick early, chase hard.

Not a difficult scenario sat here in my comfy chair but one which makes teams hesitate, lose shape and ultimately confidence in their own play.

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Another two points is what we need, but how we lay down a marker is important too.

With no World Cup, should the Super League season be extended to allow all postponed matches to be played?

Sean Lawless: The option of extending the season so that every club plays the same amount of games, needs to be explored.

There is the option to make the league table perhaps a little fairer and reflect where teams should be, rather than benefiting those who have played well in a dozen games.

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Personally, I cannot see it happening, I think the season will conclude as expected but for that to not be considered by Super League would be missing out on a potential opportunity to recoup some lost ticket money.

Robert Kenyon: I wouldn’t bother fulfilling fixtures because some teams won’t be bothered, I’d focus on a three match Lancashire v Yorkshire series at season’s end as a replacement for the World Cup.

If we play more games than anyone else then us fans get to watch more games which is a bonus, if other teams don’t take Covid seriously and have breakouts and have to postpone games then they lose money and their fans miss out on watching games.

Ste Ford: Absolutely. Unless we do this the season which is already farcical at times will become ridiculous.

I would be very surprised if Sky didn’t also push for this.

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I hope that the rugby league authorities are looking into why certain clubs seem to be oblivious to Covid protocols which has meant a crazy number of games being postponed.

Jon Lyon: Absolutely it should. There are no excuses now for not completing the majority of the fixtures this season.

That we have played so many more games than most teams is both a testament to Wigan’s integrity and symbolic of the farcical nature of this seasons league.

Wigan deserve huge credit for continuing to put decimated teams out, especially during our bad run.

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Maybe we should have just called off all our games after we had won the first seven fixtures and ensured we finished top of the pile with a 100 per cent record.

Some teams are certainly benefiting from having plenty fixtures postponed and being well rested when they play some of their bigger rivals.

If the season is to have any meaning at all then it needs to be a level playing field come play-off time.

The only problem is while everyone else fits in their missing fixtures, Wigan will be twiddling their thumbs for the last few weeks of the year.

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This could go one of two ways, either we’ll be rusty come the play offs, or we’ll be well rested with a few players coming back from injury. Fingers crossed it’s the latter.

Darren Wrudd: Haha, fat chance. Imagine the complaints that these little angels are going to be tired, screams of unfair advantage if Wigan had the odd week’s rest as others catch up to the number of games we have faced.

Then the possibility of a change in policy of how the points are added up, percentage or standard format. Someone, somewhere will be hard done to, will lose out on a place, a chance or goodness forbid a good nights sleep as the number crunchers ruin everyone’s plans once more just for the sake of it. It could be a fairer solution to make everyone play or deduct points from teams that refuse, but it will never happen.

Too many teams have used the rules to duck out of games and that I fear is a sign of the lack of integrity in the management of those clubs. At least we do things right here at Wigan.

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What’s your message to retiring Dom Manfredi and Lee Mossop?

Sean Lawless: Dom Manfredi, a man without brakes, he ran into every tackle with full commitment and on his day was one of the best Super League wingers in recent times and probably the best English winger to not have represented his country. Some memories of Manfredi will be that Grand Final, the comeback and redemption of that six week period was brilliant.

I will also have memories of that very early try on Good Friday on 2015 at the DW Stadium which set the tone for an epic derby in the mist and rain. Lee Mossop another exceptional talent who’s potential was always curved by his chronic shoulder injuries, peaking in 2013 as part of the double winners team and being a member of the England World Cup squad.

Robert Kenyon: Manfredi was probably my favourite Wigan player of the last five years, in that time he didn’t play a lot but he had massive potential.

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He could have made it in the NRL as he was tough enough, every time he took the ball in he excited me because he ran so hard with no thought for self preservation.

Manfredi for me should have played for England and he would have scared the Aussies to death.

Mossop is one that got away, I always rated him and it’s a shame he struggled with injury, he was tough but seemed like a gentle giant with the best right hand punch I’ve seen since Terry Newton.

Ste Ford: To Manfredi, thanks for all your efforts and I hope that you have your medical issues resolved as quickly as possible.

Good luck and good health to you and your family.

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When he first came onto the scene I thought that he had the potential to become the best winger in Super League - unfortunately due to his horrendous bad luck with injuries we probably never got to see how good that he actually was.

I have never met the guy but I believe that he is a gent off the pitch which for me is always good to hear.

Mossop has been a great servant to both Wigan and Salford.

Yet another player plagued by injuries but give the lad his due he fought through these issues to have a really decent career.

I think that Salford will miss him massively as he really is the cornerstone of their pack.

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Jon Lyon: Both have been wonderful servants to the game and to Wigan, and both have been extremely unlucky with a cruel succession of injuries.

Lee and Dom, though, have shown what can be achieved through desire, passion and incredible hard work as well as what must be an unbelievably strong mind set to continue trying to get back on the field time and again.

I would like to thank both for the joy they have brought watching them in Cherry and White.

Dom has always been one of the most exciting players to watch.

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You knew anything could happen when he touched the ball, he regularly broke the line returning kicks and was almost unstoppable hitting the ball at speed in the opposition twenty.

Lee was a rock solid forward with great defence and a good offload.

He showed incredible bravery in the 2011 cup final coming back onto the field to help us win despite earlier leaving the match with a dislocated shoulder.

I was delighted he achieved further success at Salford, well deserved.

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Both will be remembered, not for the bad luck and injuries, but for the entertainment they brought us.

I hope both can find happiness in new careers and more importantly good health for the future.

Both will always be cherry and white heroes.

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Darren Wrudd: I hope that both Mossop and Manfredi have at least some idea as to the high regard in which they are held here at Wigan. Remember Mossop dislocating a shoulder in a Challenge Cup final but came back on later in the game, showing real commitment to the team then going on to complete a wonderful career whilst always keeping to those high standards.

Dom Manfredi has been simply inspiring in the courage and determination shown throughout his struggles with injuries.

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Troubled with such unfortunate luck, he could have folded up his short long ago but fought hard to get back to fitness.

Alas this last injury was too much and he leaves with his head held high and the best wishes of the whole of Super League.

Fans from all clubs leaving tributes on social media does not happen for many but that shows just how good this lad was.

If it were not for the injuries he had, Dom could have been the greatest winger Wigan has ever seen and that is saying something, I will miss him.

I hope he joins us in the stands at some point as the first pint is on me.