Wane: Losing is unthinkable
Rival coaches Tony Smith and Shaun Wane deny their seasons are on the line as Warrington and Wigan clash in the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup this weekend.
Both clubs have been finding the going tough in Super League with pre-season title favourites Warrington languishing in 10th and champions Wigan an underwhelming seventh.
Recent form has been particularly poor with the Wolves having lost four in succession and Wigan winning just one of their last eight in all competitions. The last time either side avoided defeat was when they played out a 24-24 draw against each other at the Magic Weekend last month.
That has brought tomorrow’s cup quarter-final at the Halliwell Jones Stadium into sharp focus but neither coach - both past cup-winners - sees it as season-defining.
Wolves boss Smith, who has been under the greater pressure, said: “It changes nothing either way, win or loss.
“We would like to do well in the cup and fight hard in the league and we are not throwing the towel in in either one.
“It certainly wouldn’t be the end of our season if we don’t perform this week - we’d totally focus on the league. If we do win this week we’ll fight hard to get to the final.”
Wigan’s slump continued with a humiliating 50-34 loss at struggling neighbours Leigh last week and the Warriors are now seven points off the top four.
Wane said: “This is a very important game, no getting away from that, but there is still lots for us to go at and it’s the same for Warrington.
“The best team is going to win, the team that wants it the most. It’s two very equally-matched teams.”
That said, Wane will not allow himself to think about the consequences of another loss this weekend.
He said: “It is unthinkable. Lose a quarter-final, semi-final, and you’re not going to Wembley. To lose this Saturday you wouldn’t contemplate it.”
Warrington have the greater squad concerns with influential captain Chris Hill suspended, centre Matty Blythe out with a fractured leg and playmakers Kurt Gidley and Kevin Brown needing to pass fitness tests.
Centre Ryan Atkins is back but Wigan could benefit from a host of returning players including star full-back Sam Tomkins, who has not played since breaking his foot last September.
John Bateman is fit again after three months out while Sean O’Loughlin, Anthony Gelling, Liam Farrell and Sam Powell also have a chance.
Meanwhile, Warrington have bolstered their squad with the capture of Australian centre Ben Pomeroy, 33, from French side Lezignon.