It’s difficult to know what to expect when Warriors travel to France to face Catalans.
Regardless of where each side is in the table, results show close finishes – footage shows attritional battles.
We started soft and I never saw it coming because we trained really wellShaun Wane
But then there is the odd blowout score. Look at Wigan’s 50-26 play-off win in 2008, or perhaps Catalans 58-16 demolition of the Warriors last year.
Predictably, that was a hard defeat for Shaun Wane to take. Before this season’s 62-0 away loss to Wakefield, (admittedly under mitigating circumstances as most of the team were ill), that loss in Perpignan was Wigan’s worst in Super League.
A different approach is being used today to try and produce a better result this time.
Instead of travelling before the game, Wane and his players will only travel today – with only one focus in mind.
“We enjoy this trip, but at the end of the day I want two points and I want a performance,” said the coach.
“I want to go into Wakefield with another win under our belt, but I will never underestimate Catalans after what they did to us last year.
“That was one of the toughest days – along withCastleford away last year – that I’ve had to deal with as a coach and we can’t allow that to happen again.”
One aspect of Wigan’s game which has to be different this year is obvious to Wane.
After Josh Charnley’s opening try last year, Wigan had no answer as Catalans raced into a 34-10 half-time lead.
“Our start needs to be better,” he said.
“We started soft and I never saw it coming because we trained really well, everything... travel, team run, had gone perfect until we walked on the field.
“So our attitude when we walk on the field needs to be spot on, we need to be ready for a physical battle which you’re always going to get at Catalans.”
Today’s game carries extra significance for Catalans as they have chosen this weekend to celebrate their first decade in Super League.
Their opening game was in February 2006, but with that being against Wigan, they have waited for the Warriors visit of 2016, and probably the chance of better weather, to mark the occasion.
The trip is a hit with fans, many use it as a summer holiday – and haven’t let the gradually increasing prices in Perpignan affect their enjoyment of a weekend of beer, sun (sometimes) and rugby.
And despite the tough nature of the trip for the team – Wane enjoys the challenge.
“I like Perpignan and I like France. I think it’s a good experience,” he said.
“We’ll be taking a lot of support over there – it’s a sell out because it’s their 10 year anniversary – and I’m so pleased that we’ve got a team over there.
“It’s really exciting for me and I think we need a strong foothold in the south of France and that’s what Catalans give us.”
But celebrations aside, Catalans, with ex-Warrior Pat Richards in tow, know a win will seriously boost their stock as the season meanders into the Super 8s phase.
They could go above Wigan on points difference with three games to go – but a win for Warriors will keep pressure on Hull FC as the two Challenge Cup semi-finalists lead the battle for top spot.
The Dragons are well-known for their confrontational style of play, but Wane says there is more to Laurent Frayssinous’ side.
“We need to make sure that we match them with that same aggression, controlled aggression and win the game,” said Wane.
“Laurent’s made some good signings and they’re a very, very competent team now.
“They travel away and win games and they’re tough to beat at home so it’s going to be game on.
“Laurent’s got them playing and before that I thought they did a great job in not restricting that French flair that they’ve got.
“Australian players and the Kiwis all adapt to that same style of French play and that’s why they’re so hard to defend against – you don’t know what to expect. They don’t have a set pattern of play so you need to expect the unexpected with them.”