Shaun Wane has warned his players he will adapt a more “ruthless” approach to team selection.
He is desperate to keep Wigan on course for a fourth successive Grand Final appearance.
Third in the Super League ladder, they have just four games left to try and overhaul Challenge Cup finalists Hull FC and Warrington. Wane, and chairman Ian Lenagan, have made no secret of the fact they regard the league leaders’ shield highly – even if it isn’t as widely coveted as the Challenge Cup and Super League trophies.
A place in the top-two would also give them a home semi-final.
Wane has always had a firm, and transparent, stance when picking his sides.
And, with a maximum of six games remaining, he has vowed he will taken an even harder stance.
He said: “At this time of year, my mindset is I’m ruthless. It’s really simple – if someone is not doing what I want them to do, I’ll put someone else in.
“There have been times this year we’ve not had the opportunity to do that because of player availability.
“And there are other times you give someone a bit of leeway for an off-day.
“But the stakes are higher now and I want a performance every week. No slips, no dips.
“There’s no sentiment, there’s no ‘I’ll give you a week to get over it’. They need perform.” Wane’s track record has plenty of examples where he has picked young players ahead of more experienced stars, if he has felt their form has warranted it.
Despite missing Joel Tomkins, Micky McIlorum and Dom Manfredi, he has a strong squad to pick from for their remaining match – starting with Thursday’s visit of Widnes.
The competition is fiercest in the pack, particularly with Tony Clubb and Sean O’Loughlin returning this week from injury lay-offs.
And with middles such as Lee Mossop, Ben Flower, Dom Crosby, Taulima Tautai, Willie Isa, Frank-Paul Nuuausala and Ryan Sutton, Wane will inevitably need to leave some frontline players out.
He has the option of using Sutton and Isa in the second-row, as cover for Liam Farrell and John Bateman.
“We’ve got some flexibility in the squad, but ideally I want everyone in their best position,” he said.
In the backs, Oliver Gildart and Lewis Tierney are contesting the one wing spot vacated by Manfredi’s cruel knee injury.