Wane opts for Marshall arts... but winger feels the heat
Liam Marshall is feeling the heat of competition for his place despite riding high at the top of the try-scoring charts.
The winger has enjoyed a remarkable breakthrough campaign with his hometown club.
He heads to Huddersfield tonight with the second-most touchdowns in Super League this season – 18 – as well as two in the Challenge Cup.
But with Joe Burgess doing well on the opposite flank, Tom Davies and Lewis Tierney out of the squad – and Dom Manfredi expected back soon – the 21-year-old is not taking his place for granted.
He switched to the right edge last weekend as Shaun Wane welcomed back some more experienced players.
And Marshall admits: “Knowing everyone was back, I was nervous about my place.
“I only found out I was playing on the Tuesday, it was just a matter of training well and seeing what side was picked.
“Shaun put his faith in me and hopefully I did a good enough job.
“It’s a healthy competition in training now with players coming back. There’s four wingers for two places, and Dom still to come back, but it’s what you want.
“You want to test yourself and Shaun will pick whoever is doing the best.
“You know that if your standards drop, he’s not afraid to get rid of you. It’s fun but competitive at the same time. That’s what you want.”
The move to the right side didn’t appear to dull his bright form, though he is likely to have a fourth different centre in as many weeks alongside him after Anthony Gelling was ruled out of tonight’s non-televised match with a knee knock. “It’s not really a big thing switching sides, Shaun asked me that question and I didn’t think it would bother me,” said Marshall.
“I think it may suit me a bit better as I’m carrying the ball in my right hand – I wouldn’t say it’s anywhere near as different as if you were playing half-back or centre, it’s just getting used to having a different person next to you.”
Resurgent Huddersfield and Wigan are both locked on 16 points and the winners could climb to sixth, if St Helens lose to Salford.
“Huddersfield have been playing quite a good brand of rugby, haven’t they?” said Marshall.
“And they’ve got some pretty good results that moved them above us on points difference.
“They’re in form but we know what we need to do. We know if we defend the right way, we give ourselves a chance in any game. We’ve got to bring that defensive mentality and make sure that if we deal with their classy individual players, we should be good.”
The mood within the Wigan camp certainly appears to have lifted following their 27-26 win against Warrington in the Challenge Cup quarter-final, which propelled them to within 80 minutes of Wembley.
But before they consider their semi-final against Salford, they have five Super League games to secure their place in the top-eight and, they hope, make up lost ground on those sides above them.
“We know what we need to do and it’s exciting,” added Marshall. “Maybe some people have written us off already and it’s backs against the wall, but that’s the way Wigan do it, isn’t it?
“It’s similar to last year, people didn’t think we were having a good season and we went on to win the Grand Final. Now we’re still in the Challenge Cup and the Grand Final is still what we’re aiming for. There’s maybe not as much pressure but we know what we need to do to get there.”