The 18th Man column: Who should be Wigan Warriors' full-back?

Our 18th Man columnists discuss how best to fit Bevan French and Zak Hardaker into the same side...

Thursday, 8th April 2021, 12:32 pm
Zak Hardaker

When Bevan French is available, how would you accommodate him and Zak Hardaker in the side?

Sean Lawless: When Bevan French returns, Lam has a tough decision to make.

Hardaker’s performances in the first two games make him undroppable from the full-back position and I don’t think he should be moved at this moment in time to accommodate French.

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There needs to be a catalyst to get French back in the full back position, that may be an issue in the centres which Hardaker needs to fill but at the moment, I see Willie Isa doing a Joel Tomkins in 2011 and being our first choice centre there (a similar try at Wembley would be nice).

I see French returning to the side on the wing for the first game or so, with Hardaker and French swapping positions regularly enough to give them both exposure in their prime position.

Darren Wrudd: Looking at just how well Zak is going at full-back, I must admit that I would leave him there.

A versatile back such as Bevan French could fit in the halves with Jackson Hastings and work really well there or slot onto the wing giving Farrell a chance to slip back into the pack, but the combinations that Zak is creating are something we have missed. Bevan French starred at full-back last year was most creative for himself with great pace and a side step to bamboozle the best of them, but on the back of a Hardaker break could just cut opponents defences into shreds.

Robert Kenyon: I’m pleased to see Hardaker has slimmed down and has been playing very well this season so it would be a good idea to reward him.

I’d keep Hardaker at full-back, French in on the wing and it will add a bit of healthy competition for the full-back jersey.

Jon Lyon: The way Zak is playing I think he deserves to keep the full-back spot. With Isa also playing so well in the centres and with Dom and Liam missing I’d put French on the wing for now.

He’s still incredibly dangerous out there and gives us real pace, plus Zak is making plenty breaks from full-back. Not a bad dilemma for Lam to have.

Ste Ford: A fit Bevan French a few weeks ago would be a shoe in at full-back but Hardaker’s start to the season has been good and he looks slimmer, fitter and he seems to got a bit of his lost pace back so that it is no longer a certainty.

Personally I would bring French back initially on the wing but once he has regained full fitness move him to full-back and Hardaker to centre.

A difficult one but ultimately I believe French offers more in attack from full-back and we need his unpredictability to unlock defences.

Andy Grundy: Personally, I would leave Zak Hardaker at full-back. He is a player who was named in this week’s Super League Dream Team and not surprisingly into Shaun Wane’s selection of 35 players for the England training squad.

He has made it no secret that this is his position of choice and I believe his style of attacking flair amongst other traits, is akin to many world class full backs.

Bevan French’s versatility, coupled with his elusive change of speed and skill, allows him, as we are all aware, to easily slot in comfortably on the wing, yet this would potentially see the on-fire Jake Bibby revert to centre, a position that some believe he is best suited.

Either way, all Wigan fans will be hoping for Bevan French’s speedy return after coming out of quarantine this week and displaying more of what fans became accustomed to last year.

Pete Garry: I would 100 per cent keep Hardaker at full-back. He scores and his defence is solid. I would put French on the wing as he does have some similar traits to Jason Robinson in his size and speed etc. Worth a shot to accommodate two incredible players.

Wigan head to York tomorrow night... would you like to see them one day do battle in a Super League clash?

Sean Lawless: When you look at York’s recruitment, they look like a team that is ready to compete for a place in Super League but then you see the performance against Toulouse and they look a little off yet.

York have everything that they need, a great stadium, history, fanbase, squad and a coach who will be coaching at Super League level in the next few years, whether that’s with York or not.

I really think the likes of York, Newcastle and Toulouse are our ready-made, expansion-pleasing clubs and we, as a sport, need to be brave enough to give them that opportunity.

All three would be great away days and the fact that we are missing out on a Friday

night trip to York this weekend is a sickener!

Darren Wrudd: York are a great club for sure and their aspirations have been building for years to compete at the top level. A seemingly well run club, they have signed carefully again for this season with a scattering of ex-Super League players who will add some serious spice to tomorrow’s game.

I would love to see them make it into Super League eventually, but the system would need to change to make it viable for any Championship club to make a go of it long term.

I just don’t agree with promotion/relegation for the future success of Super League. It harms too many clubs financially on both sides of the equation and long term licences based on proper due diligence on applications could see a team like York make a go of it.

Without that, I cannot see a proper pathway for them to step up and remain in the top tier.

Robert Kenyon: It would be nice to see York rewarded with a place in Super League, they have a nice new stadium, a good young coach and are investing in the team. York would be a lovely place to stop over and watch the rugby.

Jon Lyon: I would love to see York in Super League, they or Toulouse would have been my choice to replace Toronto this year instead of Leigh.

They have progressed tremendously as a club and a team, and James Ford has done a wonderful job as coach. It would be a shame if he is poached by a Super League team before he achieves promotion with York.

Promotion is such a tough ask from the Championship though, and in truth it’s a tall order even with the ex-Super League players they have in their side. I hope they do it because York is a fantastic city and would make for a great away trip.

Ste Ford: Would love to go to York for a Super League tie and make a weekend of it.

They seem to be progressively building towards Super League standard in the player roster and particularly so with their new ground.

I fully expect to be there on a regular basis within the next two or three years.

Andy Grundy: York have a rich history in the game and have shown lately of their ambition to progress by pitching a strong case to replace Toronto Wolfpack in Super League, before being beaten in the race by Leigh Centurions.

So tomorrow’s match will most certainly make for interesting viewing as they undoubtedly will be out to prove a point and Adrian Lam has made it clear that his team must go there with the correct attitude.

They have assembled a good squad of players with Super League experience and they have a quality coach in James Ford.

Yet, one must also remember that they have had their fair share of problems, with the club fighting for survival back in 2016.

However, I do believe with the correct support and vision, along with continued investment and focus on sustainable growth, that there may eventually be potential to see them take the step up one day soon.

Pete Garry: Yes, it's always good to have new competition in the league, looking forward to seeing them play us on Friday to see just what that would look like.

After two Super League rounds, have you changed your opinion on any team’s prospects this year?

Sean Lawless: Hull look strong but they also looked strong after round one last year, so I refuse to get carried away or concerned about them; Hull KR and Leigh look like they will struggle and I think that was expected.

My biggest surprise so far is just how poor Huddersfield have been and granted, they have been without Aidan Sezer but they look way off the mark at the moment.

The other surprise after their pre-season victory over Wigan, is Salford; again they look poor and incredibly blunt in attack.

Both teams have new coaches and haven’t found that magic honeymoon period that perhaps, Hodgson has found at Hull but there are some early concerns for both of those clubs at the minute.

Darren Wrudd: One game in and the prospect of Leigh fighting to get in the top half of the table was a possibility, but only a week later it seems that they are a way off that yet having seemingly spent their adrenaline on trying to take the points off their over privileged near neighbours (Wigan got the train station AND the A&E).

Being honest, it is far too early to tell what will happen at the bottom end of the table.

I would be surprised if Leigh were not in a fight for relegation come the end of the season but I can see Huddersfield and possibly Leeds being in the arm wrestle also. It would be good for Leigh to find a way to remain in Super League beyond 2021 as I think they add value as a club and owner Derek Beaumont is exactly what our sport needs.

A dedicated and passionate fan who just happens to be lucky enough to own his favourite club.

Robert Kenyon: I didn’t have Hull FC down for much this season but seeing them play they look good and look like they might make a final this season.

I like Reynolds and Connor and the craftiness they bring to the game, I look forward to playing them.

Jon Lyon: It’s very early but Hull and especially Castleford have started very well, along with the usual suspects in Wigan and Saints.

Huddersfield have probably disappointed the most so far with big expectations of Ian Watson’s side, but Aidan Sezer has been a huge miss and they will surely pick up when he returns.

Catalans, Warrington and Leeds all look like they will be great one week and awful the next, and the rest seem likely to be battling to stay away from the relegation spot.

No doubt at least one team will massively under or over perform in the end, leaving my predictions making me look daft... thie same every year!

Ste Ford: I thought Hull maybe the dark horse this year but I may have to change that to definitely top four side and very capable of upsetting ourselves and Saints in all competitions.

They could do with Brett Hodgson what we did under Michael Maguire in that we had the latent talent but needed a new coach with new and stretching standards to drag us into real competition for prizes.

Andy Grundy: It’s been an interesting start to the season, yet as to be expected, all teams are still finding their feet at this stage and, with only two games in, it would be foolish to cast aspersions on who may or may not progress as one perhaps initially expected pre-season. However, it is fair to say that there is a handful of clubs that look to have found early form.

Hull FC, Catalans Dragons, St Helens and Castleford most certainly come into this equation.

A little surprisingly, Leeds Rhinos looked, for want of a word, a little ‘depleted’ in the game against Castleford and Leigh Centurions were hit hard by the impressive Warrington Wolves in their second defeat.

Add Salford Red Devils to this list and there will need to be some questions answered at these clubs and a positive response forthcoming very soon!

Pete Garry: After two games I was hoping that saints would be showing some cracks in the foundations but no, still appear to be going strong. Hull seem pretty strong too but its early days yet so I am looking forward to getting some of our own stars back in the side as the season progresses. With two wins from two hopefully we can build strength over the next few games.