How Wane’s squad may change by the end of the month

Both Sean O'Loughlin and John Bateman are sidelined
Both Sean O'Loughlin and John Bateman are sidelined

A string of injuries, illnesses and a suspension has depleted Shaun Wane’s squad for Sunday’s trip to Wakefield.

At least nine first-teamers are set to be ruled out and Wane plans to give another debut, which could take the number of teenagers in his side to four.

But he could have a different team by the end of the month – quite literally!

His squad was already stretched for Friday’s loss 28-16 to Warrington, and two players from that squad have joined the list of absentees.

Captain Sean O’Loughlin has a hamstring problem, and fellow England forward Liam Farrell copped a one-match ban.

All of the nine missing are frontline players – the statistic has not been embelished with the inclusion of fringe players.

And to rub salt into Wigan’s wounds, many of those missing are in key positions down the ‘spine’ of the side – hooker, halfback and full-back.

Wane, though, runs a ‘no excuses’ policy and, while he has discussed his list of absentees, he has been careful not to seek pity.

He has even spoken of the long-term benefits of giving so many fringe players more action, even if it has been forced upon him.

With other teams across the league suffering injuries, it has raised fresh debates about the hectic Easter schedule.

Wane and chairman Ian Lenagan remain fans of playing two games over the weekend, though Dan Sarginson this week tweeted to say he was against it – and said “every player” felt the same way.

That debate will rumble on, long after Sarginson has left Super League, but of more pressing concern for the Warriors is selecting a squad for their next match.

With no players likely to return, it means the depth and strength of Wane’s squad will be further tested for Sunday’s clash at resurgent Wakefield. The recent debutants Nick Gregson and Jack Higginson are expected to keep hold of their places.

Prop Joe Bretherton may also come into the reckoning to make his first appearance for the club, and two others with senior experience – Lewis Tierney and Luke Waterworth – are also options. But the complexion of his line-up could change drastically over the next few weeks.

Wales prop Ben Flower and England forward John Bateman haven’t been completely ruled out of this weekend’s match.

But Wane says the following week’s game against Castleford is a more realistic target for both.

Farrell will also be available for the home match against the Tigers, while prop Dom Crosby and loose-forward O’Loughlin may also be available.

There is also the possibility stand-off George Williams will be fit. He has a back problem and Wane says they will be led by the Young Player of the Year, who is waiting for pain to ease.

“It could be tomorrow, it could be four weeks, it’s hard to say,” the coach said this week.

While the prospect of seeing Micky McIlorum in action again this year are remote, following the sickening broken ankle injury he suffered against Brisbane two months ago, Kiwi centre Anthony Gelling is also expected to play a part this month.

He played in the two Easter games but suffered a knee injury which was initially expected to keep him out for 12 games, although that timeframe was quickly reduced to four weeks.

Which means, of the nine currently missing, seven are due back before the end of April. And then, of course, there is the eagerly-awaited return of Sam Tomkins.

The full-back has yet to play for Wigan since rejoining in the off-season following knee surgery.

He recently said he was on course to be ready to play in early May – just a month away.

Of course, players in the current squad may pick up knocks or banss before then, but there’s no doubting the competition for places is about to be ramped up.

And while the younger, fringe players in the side look most under threat, few will be taking their places for granted – especially given Wane’s ruthless selection policy.

He had no issue rewarding Oliver Gildart’s good form with a Grand Final berth last October, even though he had only six games under his belt and Anthony Gelling missed out.

Which should make the next few weeks very interesting, for several reasons.