Talking RL: 'We can be confident Wigan Warriors will turn up... how good is that?'

Tomorrow's derby is not must-win for Wigan. If you say it is, it leaves you nowhere to go if they lose.

Thursday, 11th July 2019, 10:56 am
Liam Marshall has scored five tries in his last two games

Remember, Leeds lost to Castleford four times in 2017 but went on to beat them in the Grand Final.

But a victory for Wigan would certainly send out a loud, clear message that they are back.

Their five-game winning run has rocketed them into the top-four but, as I said a month ago when I predicted a good run, they have won the games they were expected to win.

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Hull KR (twice), Huddersfield, Salford, Leeds.

And while a couple of those were narrow affairs at the start, they have grown and developed. Combinations are becoming slicker. Errors are become less frequent. Performances are becoming more consistent over the 80 minutes, with fewer dips.

The energy and enterprise against the Robins last Friday was fantastic to see. The players all talked about how good their defence was, but what about the attack? They blew their opponents away, with George Williams back to his best and the backs given the space to showcase their speed and talent.

Yet for all the progress the Warriors have made, they have an unticked box this season – and that is to beat one of the top-two sides (they haven't beaten third-placed Hull FC either, but they are not in the same bracket as the runaway pair of Saints and Warrington).

Am I confident Wigan will win? No. They face a strong side boasting formidable front-rowers Alex Walmsley and Luke Thompson, at a time when their own middle department is a little depleted. Those filling the roles have stepped up, especially young forwards Morgan Smithies and Ollie Partington, and this will be their biggest challenge yet.

BUT I am confident Wigan will perform, and how good is that? No longer are we heading to games wondering which side turns up; fans of Hull FC and Catalans must head to their matches unsure if their side will be 9/10 or 4/10. Wigan fans don't have that uncertainty - they can go to games feeling pretty positive that they will get a 7/10 or 8/10 from their side.

And if Adrian Lam's side produce that again tomorrow night, if they play like they have recently, they give themselves every chance. They may need a season-best 9/10 to get the two points, but that's part of the excitement.

With so much talent on display, both sides in great form and a full-house expected now Sky Sports have snubbed it for a relegation scrap, this could be an epic derby.

Credit to Super League’s players for speaking so candidly about their own issues and personal battles this week for a round of fixtures dedicated to mental well being.

I imagine it was extremely tough for them to be so candid, but I can only imagine how powerful their messages may be to others who are struggling.

I had a fun night at the Riversiders’ Question of Sport event, even if I’m ashamed to say our media team lost.

Ashamed, because the level of competition wasn’t particularly high.

Asked what Olympic event Charlotte Dujardin competed in, my colleague Dave Woods answered, ‘equestrian’.

But when quiz master Graham Lovett said he needed to be more specific, Woodsy incorrectly guessed ‘showjumping’.

Callum Field, on the players’ team, quickly buzzed in to try and sneak the point.

“Cycling,” he answered.

And, yes, before you ask... the players’ team won!