I wish Hardaker could play for Wigan Warriors this week, admits Wane

Zak Hardaker is now training with Wigan
Zak Hardaker is now training with Wigan

He has trained only twice, but Shaun Wane has seen enough to convince him Zak Hardaker will be a huge asset for Wigan.

The banned full-back linked-up with his new club this week and has made an instant impression on departing coach Wane.

Hardaker’s doping ban only runs out in November, but under UK Anti-Doping rules, can resume club training two months before. And Wane admits he wishes he could pick him for Friday’s home clash with Warrington.

“I’m gutted he’s not playing,” said Wane. “I wish I could pick him.

“I like him, he’s a competitor, I like how he trains, and he’s very good in video, he speaks well.

“I want my training sessions to be intense, I don’t like dips, and he brings that.

“He seems to have loved the last couple of days. He’s like Sam Tomkins, he just competes.

“I’m pretty gutted I won’t get the chance to coach him.”

Hardaker, a former Man of Steel who played at Leeds, Penrith and Castleford, has been out of the game since been suspended ahead of last year’s Grand Final.

“He’s been pumped, and all the other players are flying (because of him),” continued Wane.

“I’ve never seen John Bateman look as happy – he doesn’t normally come out of his shell on a Monday but he did, with Zak there. We’ve had an upbeat session today, he got whacked a few times and he’ll be sore tomorrow. He’ll have missed that.”

Wane will name his 19-man squad today but Sean O’Loughlin (calf) and Ben Flower (back) are doubtful with injuries which forced them off early in last Friday’s 25-10 win against Wakefield.

Joe Greenwood will also miss out, with Wane opting not to appeal his one-game ban. Willie Isa will switch to back-row, allowing Oliver Gildart to revert to centre and Dom Manfredi to make his long awaited comeback.

With two left centres and two right wingers, two of Wane’s three-quarters will move from their preferred positions – possibly Gildart and Tom Davies. The coach added: “We’ve had a chat with the lads about who feels most comfortable with it – but I’ll keep it close to my chest.”

Prop Taulima Tautai will also come back into the mix after serving a four-game ban.

Warrington are resting Chris Hill and Tyrone Roberts, while Kevin Brown (injury) and Mike Cooper (suspension) are also absent.