Flower braced for a ‘battle’ with pal McIlorum

Ben Flower is set to face former team-mate, Micky McIlorum
Ben Flower is set to face former team-mate, Micky McIlorum

Ben Flower is preparing for a battle royal in France tomorrow as he prepares to lock horns with his former team-mate Micky McIlorum.

The speculation of Sam Tomkins’ expected move to Catalans has overshadowed an intriguing sub-plot to this game.

Hooker McIlorum is set to face his old club for the first time since his off-season move to Catalans – putting him on a collision course with Flower and the rest of the Warriors middles.

The Welsh prop said: “He’ll be up for a game, there’ll be a bit of a battle there but it will be nice to see him.

“It will be strange playing against him, but it’s rugby at the end of the day.”

This won’t be his first experience of facing the combative, tough-tackling No.9 several years ago.

“I’ve been in the Wales side when he’s played for England, many moons ago,” recalled Flower. “He was a lot more grubby back then! He’s chilled a bit now.

“He’s not really much of a talker on the pitch, he does all of his actions in the tackle and the way he plays so he doesn’t need to talk much.” Steve McNamara’s Catalans, who were 80 minutes away from relegation last year, are bottom of the table after again failing to live up their hype.

“They’ve had a shocking start, you’d be surprised when you look at the quality of the players they’ve got,” said Flower.

“They’ve got a lot of talent but they’ve just not seemed to have found that Mojo.

“I think it will click but it’s obviously a new coach and a lot of new players, it just takes time.

“But in this league, unfortunately, time’s not on your hands really. Before you know it, the Super-8s are starting.

“I don’t know what the answer is but I’m disappointed obviously for Micky because he’s my mate. I don’t like to see him there.”

Such is the wealth of talent at Wane’s disposal, he has left strong-carrying winger Tom Davies out of his squad - with Liam Marshall, who scored four tries on Monday, and Joe Burgess both included.

“I thought we started really well and I thought that was the key to us getting the win,” said Flower.

“To score that many points on Easter Monday as well, you can’t moan at that, can you?

“Normally it’s a bit of a dogfight, playing three days after Good Friday, and it can be scrappy, but it was good and the boys who came in played well.”

Flower was particularly impressed with the display of fellow prop Gabriel Hamlin, who has shadowed him in training since his arrival from South Sydney.

“When he came in, Waney said he wanted Gabe to almost follow me and look at what I did because we’re similar kind of stature,” he said.

“He’s probably a bit quicker than me, and I’m probably a bit bigger than him, but I think the way we play at Wigan it’s good to know, ‘That’s what he wants’.”

Wigan’s players will set 4.30am alarm calls when they go to bed tonight after Wane again opted to travel to and from France on game-day, rather than stay in the south of France overnight.

We’ve got some results out of doing it this way, it seems to work for us,” added Flower. “It’s a tough day and I’m not one for getting up so early in the morning to be honest with you, but we’ve all got to do it. We’ve gone out there and we’ve got the wins the last times we’ve done it, so it is what it is.”

Wigan’s 19-man squad: John Bateman, Joe Burgess, Tony Clubb, Liam Farrell, Ben Flower, Oliver Gildart, Gabe Hamlin, Willie Isa, Tommy Leuluai, Liam Marshall, Romain Navarrete, Sean O’Loughlin, Sam Powell, Dan Sarginson, Ryan Sutton, Taulima Tautai, Joel Tomkins, Sam Tomkins, George Williams

Catalans 19-man squad: David Mead, Jodie Broughton, Iain Thornley, Brayden Wiliame, Fouad Yaha, Samisoni Langi, Remi Casty, Paul Aiton, Sam Moa, Louis Anderson, Benjamin Garcia, Greg Bird, Julian Bousquet, Mickael Simon, Jason Baitieri, Thibaud Margalet, Michael McIlorum, Benjamin Jullien, Tony Gigot.