Friendlies to prevent aces being frozen out

Jordan James has extended his playing days at Swinton
Jordan James has extended his playing days at Swinton

WIGAN are planning to arrange reserve-level friendlies with other Super League outfits to prevent their fringe players being frozen out of the game from the summer.

Rugby manager and club director Kris Radlinski admits changes to the competition structure has created “a problem” for the Warriors and other top-flight outfits.

From July, new rules restrict clubs sending players on dual-registration – meaning those too old for the Under-19s have nowhere to play.

Radlinski says the issue has been raised, and Wigan are taking it on themselves to ensure young players’ development doesn’t suffer.

The club legend said: “It’s a problem, and one which has been raised.

“Other clubs are in the same boat, so we’ll arrange competitive reserve games.”

For the past two years, Super League clubs have been operating U19s teams – rather than reserve, alliance, U21s or U20s sides – which have no allowances for open-age players.

Those too old for the U19s can gain experience playing on dual-registration terms with partnering lower-league clubs – in Wigan’s case, Workington.

But the revamp of the Super League structure has had a knock-on effect to the dual-registration system.

After 23 rounds, when the clubs move into the ‘Super 8s’ phase, players will have to commit to either their parent or guest club for the rest of the campaign.

And that creates a dilemma for clubs like Wigan.

For example, Dom Manfredi may not be in Shaun Wane’s starting team in July – but allowing him to leave for seven weeks would rob the Warriors of a quality winger should Josh Charnley or Joe Burgess suffer an injury, suspension or dip in form.

And there will be similar potential scenarios throughout the team, with fringe players such as Lewis Tierney, James Greenwood and Rhodri Lloyd.

“Until July it will work the same as last year,” added Radlinski.

“Then we’ve got to make a call on what we think is best. A lot will depend on how the squad is travelling.

“If Waney has a full squad we’ll sit down and make a decision – but it is a gamble to let a player go for the rest of the year because there’s always the potential it may come back and bite us. We’ll just have to assess it then.”

The decision to switch to an U19s competition was passed after a vote by Super League clubs, presumably as a cash-saving measure.

An RFL spokesman said there were no plans to review or change the current system and it would remain in place until at least the end of this year.

JORDAN James, who has moved on to Wigan’s coaching staff after playing for Shaun Wane’s side in 2014, has agreed to play on this year.

He has signed to play for Championship One outfit Swinton Lions. James played 17 games for the Warriors last year, having figured six times in 2006.