Shaun Wane is a big admirer of Ben Barba – but insists he wouldn’t swap Wigan full-back Sam Tomkins for anyone.
Australian Barba is the favourite to win the Steve Prescott Man of Steel after a sparkling start to the Super League campaign with St Helens.
And his duel with Tomkins tomorrow will provide one of the intriguing subplots to a mouth-watering Good Friday derby.
Wane described Barba, 28, as an “outstanding” player.
But asked would he swap Tomkins to have him the former Cronulla livewire in his side, he replied: “Absolutely not a chance in the world.
“Barba is a great, great player, an outstanding player. “But I’m happy with what I’ve got – a real competitor, a good goal-kicker. I’m happy with Sam.”
Tomkins went up against Barba when they were playing for New Zealand Warriors and Brisbane Broncos respectively and he has plenty of respect for the 2012 Dally M Medal winner.
“He’s someone who people pay to watch,” Tomkins said. “He’s been a real asset for them.
“He’s had plenty of problems off the field which have been well documented but, when he’s playing well, there’s not many better.”
It will be a first taste of a Good Friday derby for Barba, who made his Saints debut in a 26-16 home defeat by Wigan last September, while Tomkins’ last involvement in the famous fixture was in 2013.
“I understand how big these games are,” Tomkins said. “I’ve played in plenty of them and I’ve got some great memories - 2011 was my favourite when Liam Farrell scored in the last seconds to win us the game.”
Tomkins kicked five goals from six attempts in Friday’s 48-10 win against Huddersfield and added the polish to their attacks.
Wane says he has not quite reached career-best form and the player agreed.
“I’m going all right,” he said. “I’m happy with my form. I think there’s more to come.
“I’m not playing any perfect 80 minutes yet, but I’m comfortable with how I’m playing.”
Morgan Escare will miss the derby because of a virus.
Liam Marshall, Romain Navarette or Josh Woods will replace him.
See today’s Wigan Post for an eight-page Warriors supplement.