Thomas Leuluai's faith in young Wigan Warriors line-up
Captain Thomas Leuluai is backing Wigan’s young guns to fire and put them back on track tomorrow night.
Injuries and suspensions have been compounded by absentees due to the England-All Stars match, robbing Adrian Lam of nine frontline stars for the trip to Wakefield.
Young hooker Brad O’Neill (inset) is on course to make his debut, teenager Umyla Hanley is set to play the pivotal full-back role, while two 20-year-olds – Kai Pearce-Paul and Morgan Smithies – look likely to make up the second-row.
But Leuluai has urged them to grab their chance and prove they belong on the big stage.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity for them,” said the Kiwi. “One thing we have here are great juniors and a great academy system.
“I can think of a number of games when we’ve had players out, put out inexperienced teams and come up with a win. So for us we’ve talked about the pride of playing for Wigan ”
The Warriors have only named an 18-man squad to face Wakefield, as opposed to the usual 21, and that included Dom Manfredi.
Unless the injured winger makes a remarkable recovery, O’Neill may get his chance having been recalled from his loan spell at Championship outfit Widnes, where he scored two tries in nine games during which he averaged 42 tackles a game.
A combative hooker, Lam brought him into the senior squad last year but he injured his knee before he got the chance to make his first-team debut.
James McDonnell – who made his Wigan debut last September – is also included after returning from a spell on loan at York, though he has not played in the last two weeks due to injury.
Mitch Clark could be added to the squad, without punishment, but hasn't been named as his loan spell at Newcastle only expires tonight.
Wigan’s 18-man squad: Dom Manfredi, Oliver Gildart, Liam Marshall, Tommy Leuluai, Sam Powell, Joe Bullock, Willie Isa, Oliver Partington, Morgan Smithies, Liam Byrne, Harry Smith, Ethan Havard, Jake Bibby, Joe Shorrocks, Kai Pearce-Paul, James McDonnell, Umyla Hanley, Brad O’Neill