Flower’s bid to bloom in Grand Final mission

Wigan Warriors v Salford City Reds:  Ben Flower congratulates Sam Tomkins on his second try
Wigan Warriors v Salford City Reds: Ben Flower congratulates Sam Tomkins on his second try

LEEDS Rhinos are just about the toughest opposition Wigan could wish to face, according to Ben Flower.

But the Welsh prop, in his second term at the Warriors, is not letting the champions’ uncanny knack of commanding the play-offs dilute his confidence that he and his team-mates can reach a second major final this season.

And Flower is also determined to help send the trio of Sam Tomkins, Lee Mossop and Pat Richards off to the NRL with a Grand Final winner’s ring in each in their luggage – as well as providing Chris Tuson a successful end to his Wigan career as he weighs up his options for next season.

“It’s going to be a tough 80,” said Flower.

“Playing against Leeds is always one of the hardest games for us. They are a great side but I think if we stick to the things we’ve been doing this week I’m pretty sure we can come away with the win.

“For the boys that are leaving it will be tough so hopefully we can go out on a high, get to the Grand Final and win it for them.”

Leeds have beaten Wigan at this stage in the play-offs in 2007, 2008 and 2012, going on to win the title each time – but last year’s last-gasp 13-12 defeat at the DW Stadium was particularly disappointing for Flower.

“Losing by that one point was disappointing but unfortunately for us it went their way,” Flower added.

“We are hoping to rectify that and hopefully we’ll get the score which won’t need that drop-goal at the end.

“We have a game-plan and we will stick to it. That’s what we need to do it we will come away with that win.”

The former Crusader and current Wales international came off the bench in last year’s tussle, and was just minutes away from his first major final appearance with Wigan winning 11-10 going into the closing stages.

But he has since made-up for the disappointment of two semi-final defeats to the Headingley outfit in the same season by realising a dream and appearing at Wembley this year.

“I’ve won a major final already this year and to go on and win another one would be a dream come true,” said Flower.

“I’ve been playing five years now and to win a Challenge Cup was great.

“Some players go their full career and don’t win anything, so it’s a privilege to know I’ve already won a major cup and hopefully get a few more in the next few years.”

In order to ensure Flower’s dream of running out at Old Trafford this season stays intact, Wigan need to win their first game at home since August 2 (a 21-16 win over Hull KR which Flower missed through injury) and they also need to overcome Leeds in the play-offs for the first time since 2010 – when the Warriors went on to win the Grand Final against St Helens.

But preparations are going well according to the robust 25-year-old, who celebrates his birthday a week before he is set to trot out at the 
Millennium Stadium for Wales as they take on Italy in the World Cup opener.

“It’s been good, “ insisted Flower when asked about training.

“We’ve trained as hard as we do normally. We had a hit up against the reserve team and had a bit of a game situation which was good to keep our match fitness up – we had a bit of bash-up with them - a good 40-minute session.

“We’re going into this week fresh but knowing that we’ve done the hard work.”