Charnley aims to be No.1 choice

Josh Charnley in action last Friday night at Leeds
Josh Charnley in action last Friday night at Leeds

JOSH Charnley feels he is finally getting back on track after a rocky campaign.

And the England winger is aiming for an assured display at Warrington tonight to help him hang onto his wing spot.

In-form Joe Burgess - Super League’s 21-try flyer - is close to a return from injury.

And with Dom Manfredi and Charnley duelling for the other role, coach Shaun Wane must decide which winger needs to make way once he has a three-way fight for two spots again.

Charnley himself has experienced periods out of the first-team fold this year - due to both injury and form.

But after appearing in 10 of the last 12 matches, he now feels he is getting into his familiar groove again as the season enters the crunch phase.

He said: “Week by week I want to get better, I’d been out for 14 weeks earlier this year and it took its toll.

“Missing out on the games, people don’t recognise you any more!

“It was hard to get back into the squad because Dom took his opportunity well, and you can’t drop a player who’s performing well.

“It was hard for me, but it makes me thrive to be Shaun’s no.1 choice.

“I wanted to get back on track where I left off, and it’s good to get my head down and plod on.”

Wigan head into the game aiming to make up ground on leaders Leeds, who moved four points clear at the top of the pile with their 25-18 win at Headingley last Friday.

“It was a bit upsetting we lost the game but we took a lot of positives out of it,” said England winger Charnley.

“We’re not in a bad place - but there’s a lot to fix.

“We started slow and in those games you need to start fast and get them into the grind. We left it too late really.

“So against Warrington, we need to be physical. They have a big pack and they pride themselves on forwards like Chris Hill and Ashton Sims.

“It’s a tough battle there.”

Wigan lost 17-6 at the Halliwell Jones Stadium a month ago, which fit with their trend of failing to get results on the road.

Indeed, they have won only four matches on their travels this year - at Wakefield, Huddersfield and Hull FC, as well as the Magic fixture against Leeds - which contrasts with their unbeaten home form.

Still, bookmakers have made the visitors the slight favourites. Wigan are in solid form, while the Wolves have lost their last three games.

They crashed out the Challenge Cup with a shock semi-final defeat against Hull KR, and then tumbled out of the play-offs race with losses at Leeds and Castleford.

Wigan can hammer a nail into their coffin with victory tonight.

“To win a comp’ you need a lot of things to fall in place,” said coach Tony Smith.

“We’re keen to finish the season as strong as we can. We’re not putting the cue in the rack.”

Smith believes he has the Man of Steel-elect in his ranks - prop Chris Hill - and reckons he has a huge part to play against his hometown club this evening.

“We usually bring the best out of each other,” he said.

“It’s Wigan v Warrington, there’s rivalry, and a healthy rivalry - we do like to play physical, and we both recognise that’s how we play against each other.

“You need to prepare for battle. Before the last game, we’d had a number of close defeats by them, and we were like, ‘What do we need to do to beat these blokes?’

“We want to build our own little record against them again.

“We need to do that for ourselves this week, after the last two weeks we’ve not done ourselves justice.

“When we analysed the game last week it was not taking our opportunities which cost us.

It’s caused us to practice very well this week, and hopefully that will convert into a good performance for Wigan.”

Australian halfback Chris Sandow is set to make his home debut.