SHAUN Wane has revealed he plans to use Ben Flower in the prop position.
The off-season recruit starred at loose forward for Wales during last year’s Four Nations.
And before that, he was no stranger to the No.13 role for Crusaders, with six of his nine Super League starts last term coming in that position.
The imposing presence of captain Sean O’Loughlin at Wigan had led to speculation that Flower may see action in the second-row for the reigning Challenge Cup holders. But Wane intends to use the 24-year-old as an out-and-out front-rower, believing his work-rate and tigerish defending will be best utilised in the centre of the park.
The head coach – preparing his side for their opening friendly at Hull KR this Sunday – said: “I want Ben in the middle, rather than on the edge.
“We’re fortunate that Ben is skilful enough to play at loose forward if Sean O’Loughlin is rested, that’s an option for us, but I see him as a prop – I think that’s where he’s at his best.”
Confirmation that Flower will play at prop whets the appetite for an intense battle for front-row spots in 2012.
Wane will switch Gareth Hock back to his old second-row spot, but that still leaves the new boss with seven senior front-rowers.
Flower will be contesting for positions with Gil Dudson, Epalahame Lauaki, Stuart Fielden, Jeff Lima, Lee Mossop and Paul Prescott.
Two of those – Fielden and Prescott – are doubtful for the start of the season as they recover from operations.
Wane added: “We’ll have quite a few props.
“But we didn’t have that competition for places last year – Stu missed nearly all the year and Eamon O’Carroll (now at Hull FC) was missing for most of the season.
“We’ll have plenty of competition now and with those guys getting the team forward, it should be easier for players like Brett Finch and Tommy Leuluai to find holes.”