Connolly backing Madge’s men

WIGAN legend Gary Connolly has backed the champions to successful navigate the play-off pit-falls and defend their title at Old Trafford.

The Warriors will be dumped out of the Grand Final race if they lose to in-form Catalan at the DW Stadium on Sunday.

They were sent down a tougher route after losing to St Helens 26-18 last Sunday, and must beat the Dragons – and an away semi-final against either Warrington or Saints – to claim their place at the Theatre of Dreams.

But Connolly, one of the finest centres of his generation, has seen enough of Michael Maguire’s charges to convince him they are capable of bouncing back from last weekend’s derby defeat.

And while many others are questioning whether Wigan’s successful Challenge Cup run has sapped their energy, he reckons they can draw inspiration from their Wembley heroics and give Maguire the dream send-off he craves.

Connolly said: “Wigan did the same last year so they can do it again, definitely.

“It obviously would have been better to have the week off.

“They’ve got to get over the defeat to Saints quickly.

“A lot has been made of their Challenge Cup run but it was do-or-die all the way through that, and so they know how to play under pressure.”

Connolly, a Grand Final winner with Wigan in 1998 and a veteran of more than 300 games for the club between 1993 and 2004, says they will not be too down-beat after their loss last Sunday.

“They put a lot of pressure on Saints’ line, but the final passes went to ground too often,” he said.

Full-back Sam Tomkins admits Wigan are focussing on themselves – and not their opponents – as they aim to keep their title defence on track.

“Catalan are a good team but we’ll concentrate on ourselves,” he said, just hours before Maguire imposed a media ban on his players.

“The effort was there against Saint but we didn’t execute as well as we can.

“But we did it the hard way last time so there’s no reason we can’t do it again.”

l OUT-of-contract Wigan winger Karl Pryce, who spent the year on loan at Harlequins, has been named in the Jamaican squad.

l U-20s glory bid – p39