Shaun Wane has instructed his Wigan side not to let Jake Connor get under their skin at Hull FC tomorrow night.
Connor is widely regarded to be one of Super League’s most provocative players.
Even his own coach Lee Radford labelled him “a horrible man who is giving our team a reputation for being grubs.”
But few question the talent of the 23-year-old, who has moved from centre to halfback in spells and this week earned a call-up to the England squad.
Wane is a big fan of Connor and has stressed to his players they shouldn’t react if he tries to wind them up.
“We’ve spoken about it, because he’s a player who is in your face,” said Wane.
“I like him, he’s a great player, a good kid.
“He’s what I call a natural player – he knows how to make opportunities, and I’m glad he was picked for England because he thoroughly deserved it.”
Asked whether characters like Connor were good for the competition, he replied: “Absolutely – we don’t want robots doing the same thing.”
He drew a comparison with his full-back Sam Tomkins, another who has a reputation for being spiky.
“People think what they want about Sam, but he just competes,” said Wane.
“He’s a lovely person, I could sit for hours talking to him.
“But people who don’t support the club – and even some who do – don’t like that (feisty) part of him.
“It’s just because he’s a competitor, and that’s what got us the drop-goal at Leeds.
“You can’t change it and you wouldn’t want to – it’s the best quality you could ask for - and Connor has the same nature.”
Wane yesterday named his 19-man squad with few surprises. Liam Farrell is out after rolling his ankle, while Liam Marshall, Taulima Tautai and Ben Flower are available.
Influential halfback Albert Kelly and former Steve Prescott Man of Steel Danny Houghton return for Hull, who are fifth in the ladder, four points behind second-placed Wigan.
Kick-off on Saturday is 5pm and the game is not being televised.
Wigan’s 19-man squad:
Bateman, Clubb, Davies, Escaré, Field, Flower, Gildart, Hamlin, Isa, Leuluai, Marshall, Mullen, Navarette, O’Loughlin, Powell, Sarginson, Tautai, Tomkins, Williams.
Hull FC’s 19-man squad:
Shaul, Faraimo, Tuimavave, Kelly, Taylor, Houghton, Minichiello, Connor,
Green, Washbrook, Fash, Litten, Paea, Logan, Turgot, Downs, Miloudi, Matongo, Harris.