YOUNG-GUN Ryan Hampshire is poised to make his full debut tonight as table-topping Wigan seek a return to winning ways.
Shaun Wane’s outfit face Bradford Bulls at the DW Stadium with a new face in the full-back role.
Highly-rated Hampshire – nicknamed ‘Rocky’ – made a brief Super League appearance off the bench in the 33-32 win at Widnes last month.
And with Sam Tomkins still absent, Wane has opted for the 18-year-old Yorkshireman who has played many of his Under-19s matches at stand-off.
“I’ve looked at Jack Murphy and Lewis Tierney, and now I’m going to take a look at Rocky there,” said Wane.
“He’s played in the halfback, but we want full-backs who are quick and Sam Tomkins was a half before he moved positions.
“Ryan is in a similar mould of player.”
Wigan were stunned by Castleford last Friday, losing 18-4 just days after suffering defeat against Warrington.
But Bradford are low on confidence and have won just one of their past eight games, falling out of the play-off spots.
Wane said: “We know what went wrong last week and we know how to fix it.
“I expect a really honest performance and I’m really confident I’ll get it.”
The rest of the backs will have a familiar look, but in the pack, a void of props may force Wane to again give rugby union recruit Andy Powell another appearance.
The former Wales No.8 made a promising debut against the Tigers and though Wane would prefer to blood him into the 13-a-side code, a shortage of front-rowers has forced his hand.
Epa Lauaki was named in the original 19-man squad but is still struggling with a knee injury, while Scott Taylor and Lee Mossop are sidelined.
And longer-term, Wigan lost another front-rower yesterday when – as exclusively revealed in the Evening Post – Paul Prescott was forced to retire because of a back injury.
Wane added a further tribute to the 27-year-old last night.
He said: “Paul is a quality person, and he should take pride from the fact a lot of players retire without ever winning a Challenge Cup or a Grand Final.
“He’s done that for his hometown club, and made memories that will stay with him for the rest of his life.
“When you look back, there aren’t many Wigan lads who have come through the system at prop and stayed there.
“Even going back to the 80s, there was myself and Ian Lucas, but there haven’t been too many more – they’ve usually been recruited from other clubs – and it’s a great testament to Paul’s hard work and dedication that he managed to do that.
“Only people who are the club will see how hard he has worked in rehab to overcome the injuries he’s had. He’s contributed so much to the club, as a player and a person.”