The 18th man column: ‘They would choose Australia ahead of England’

Liam Farrell scored Wigan's final try against Catalans
Liam Farrell scored Wigan's final try against Catalans

Six Warriors fans discuss the England squad, the victory against Catalans and Saturday’s trip to Castleford...

What a joke the selection of two Australians in the England team is.

It’s a smack in the face of true English players who want to represent their country. Wayne Bennett has picked Chris Heighington from Cronulla, a back rower who has previously played for England and Chris McQueen, the centre come second rower who plays for Gold Coast and has played for Queensland.

During the World Club Challenge I saw Heighington warming up and remembered him playing for England and wasn’t convinced he offered much then, so I watched him closely to watch in detail what he offered to warrant selection and he did nothing that game, he was completely overshadowed by Wade Graham from Cronulla.

I have nothing personal against both players, I just think if they were selected for both Australia and England and they hadn’t represented either at that stage, they would always choose Australia and that is why they shouldn’t play for England.

This isn’t the first time it’s happened as it happened with Maurie Fa’asavalu and Rangi Chase, both should not have played for GB/England in my book. People comment that Australia and New Zealand accept people to play for them who qualify via residency or by ancestral means and they’re the best two teams in the world, yes, that’s correct, but when they bend the rules to allow someone to play for them it’s usually because they are a top player, not two average joes that Wayne Bennett has picked.

The difference between what Australia and New Zealand or even England Rugby Union do with picking overseas players and what we’re doing is that they pick players who will strengthen their team or squad. I don’t think Heighington or McQueen will strengthen the team any more that what any Super League second rower would.

Second row and prop are our strong suit, we always have and probably always will produce world class props and back rowers. Just off the top of my head, whilst ruling out the injured Ben Currie and John Bateman who would naturally be my two replacements for the Australians, here is a list of English second rowers I would rather see in the squad before the two in question: Gareth Ellis, Jordan Thompson, Stevie Ward, Gareth Hock, Ollie Roberts, Liam Farrell, Joel Tomkins, Josh Jones, Morgan Knowles, Danny Kirkmond and Jack Hughes or even James Greenwood from Gold Coast.

I understand Bennett didn’t want to pick too many players from each club so as not to impact too much so that’s a reasons he may have not picked Farrell or Tomkins but he could have picked other, more deserving players.

Robert Kenyon

Two Aussies put on an England jersey!

No, it’s not the start of a bad joke, it’s going to be a reality in a couple of weeks’ time when England face Samoa in the Pacific Test match on Saturday May 6 in Australia.

I think it’s a real slap in the face to Liam Farrell, Joe Westerman and Joe Greenwood, who in

my mind, are all better choices, not just because they’re English, but because they’re all great players too.

With players like John Bateman, Ben Currie and Mike Cooper to return from injury soon, I can’t see either of Chris Heighington or Chris McQueen making the World Cup squad later this year anyways, so why include them now?

Good week, bad week for Wigan!

We had a cracking result against Catalans on Sunday. Following a mixed first half, we stepped it up in the second, and the final 20-minutes was superb. That’s now three wins on the spin, and we’ve jumped up the table into third, just one point off the league leaders, Castleford Tigers.

While the win was great, there was some sour news that came out of the game with Catalans, and that was that Tommy Leuluai suffered a broken jaw, and looks set for a lengthy spell on the sidelines.

We seriously have no luck at all with injuries, and with George Williams and Sean O’Loughlin missing for the game with Salford in over a weeks’ time, Shaun Wane has a bit of a halfback problem.

We do have a few coming back. So, I assume that maybe Morgan Escaré could move into the halves and Lewis Tierney could always fill-in at fullback. Be nice to see some new partnerships, and a fresh set-up, albeit we’d just prefer a fully fit squad.

I’m really looking forward to the game with Castleford this Saturday, it’s set up to be a real cracker. We go in on the back of three wins, and they go into it on the back of two defeats. I don’t think I like that too much.

They’re a tough side to beat on the best of days at The Jungle, but even with those two defeats, they’re still a side playing well, and full of confidence. If we can go there and win, it’ll make a huge statement.

Ben Reid

Whilst the Dragons weren’t exactly slain on St Georges Day, it ended up being a comfortable victory for the Warriors on a day Wigan honoured the armed forces.

In a throwback to the days of Central Park, the Red Devils parachuted in with the match ball as part of this season’s second family fun day which included photo opportunities with the Super League and World Club Challenge trophies.

The first half was a mixed bag with Wigan taking a 16-0 lead, by and large thanks to two dropped balls which Tom Davies benefited from to show great pace to round off a 90 metre and a 50 metre effort, but then silly errors from the Warriors gave Catalans a chance to even up the scores at 16-16 at the break. But after a scare in the second half when the Dragons briefly took a 22-20 lead, Wigan eased away to end up with a 42-22 victory.

The victory could come at a cost though as Tommy Leuluai was forced off clutching his jaw and until the extent is known there will be a few worried faces around town.

Whilst the backline shone with seven out of the eight tries, and Sam Powell took home the plaudits for man of the match, the person that made the difference in my opinion was Sean O’Loughlin. When he was off the pitch the Warriors lacked leadership and cohesion and the Dragons were allowed to get on a roll.

I suppose when you look at the line up though, over the last few seasons when the captain was absent, the Warriors had players to step up, like Matty Smith and even the likes of Joel Tomkins, and despite his youth, John Bateman is the kind of guy that leads by example.

Cast your eye around the team on Sunday and Escare has just joined and speaks little English, Joe Burgess was the most experienced of the backline and he’s only 22. George Williams for all his talent is still only young, so it was left to the likes of Farrell, Flower and Powell to steer the team around once Tommy left the field until O’Loughlin returned.

The Warriors this week face top of the table Castleford with the chance to leapfrog them in the table due to the Tigers two successive defeats against St Helens and 12-man Hull.

Wigan will still be smarting from the defeat earlier this month and Tigers key man Luke Gale failed a concussion test in the defeat to Hull. This means he could play on Saturday as that is the 6th day which is the minimum recovery period per the RFL guidelines, but player welfare should always come first despite the fact that the Tigers look a totally different team when he is out and they will be desperate to stop the run of defeats.

David Bailey

Summer rugby finally arrived, and brought a game of three halves.

A glorious Sunday afternoon provided us with a great family fun day, the Red Devils parachute display team (did he really mean to get that close to the stand roof?) and a hard fought but ultimately convincing looking victory for Wigan, making it three wins in a row.

A great start saw a young Wigan back line storm in for three tries inside 20 minutes to lead 16-0, two from Tom Davies who finally got the chance to show he can finish every bit as well as Liam Marshall. Is there a better sight in rugby than a winger backing themselves down the line and flying past their opposite winger and fullback to score?

Wigan then very uncharacteristically for this season conceded three tries all from kicks before half time, Escare having problems with the sun in a game he would have been desperate to do well in against his former employers. A shame for Morgan that he gave probably his worst display of the season both under the high ball and with the boot as well as he was replaced for goal kicking duties by Powell after kicking only two from five attempts.

Wigan and Catalans then traded tries early in the second half before Tommy Leuluai left the field with what has been confirmed as a broken jaw. Terrible news for Tommy and Wigan as he had been playing extremely well and had suffered a similar injury only last November playing for New Zealand. Likely to be a minimum of six weeks out, Wigan’s problems are now exacerbated by the call up of Williams and O’Loughlin to the England squad to play Samoa, thus missing Wigan’s home match against Salford. Presumably this will see Sam Powell play at scrum half with either Ganson or Gregson on the bench to spell McIlorum.

After Leuluai’s departure Wigan pulled clear in the final 20 minutes, helped in particular by great game management from Powell and O’Loughlin and an excellent stint back from the bench by Ben Flower who’s rampaging runs and brutal defensive hits laid the platform for Wigan to ultimately win the game by a 20 point margin that looked more comfortable than it was.

Attention now turns to the away match at Castleford next Saturday night, Cas having lost their last two matches. If Wigan can win and results go their way elsewhere they could be top of the league again by Sunday morning. We can only hope having lost Leuluai we will have one or two more players back for what should be an outstanding game. Wigan may well start the game as underdogs but where there’s a Williams there’s a way.

Jon Lyon

I was thrilled that St George’s day was well-supported at the DW Stadium as the wonderful display from our armed forces set things off wonderfully, although that first parachute was cutting it mighty fine in just missing the Boston Stand roof on his dramatic entry to deliver the match ball.

The drama did not end there though as the French men were out to spoil our party. We seemed to slip into the complacent attitude that we could showboat and throw the ball around a bit and just did not respect the opposition or the possession, gifting the ball and the points to a grateful Dragons side in the second quarter to throw away our lead.

No fear long term though as with Shaun Wane’s words no doubt ringing in their ears, we got back down to ding the simple things well and picked out our chances well to make the points stick. A convincing win in the end, but not without paying a price once more.

Congratulations must go to both Sean O’Loughlin and George Williams for their selection in the England squad for the mid season fixture. I can’t help but wonder why the game is not singled out for its own weekend at the very least to not leave domestic teams without pivotal players. But I suppose its pushing the game forward although personally I think it is another mismanaged decision by a clueless RFL alongside the decision to have it as pay per view television instead of the publicity stunt that it should be, hashtag – short sighted.

Finally, after Huddersfield already succumbing to the giant killers, we are to face Swinton Lions in the next round of the Challenge Cup. I remember last time they came to Wigan and played in a wonderful spirit and hope that we can once more enjoy watching their skill and commitment. Hopefully it will be one step closer to Wembley and the next trophy for the 2017 cabinet.

Darren Wrudd

A phrase I find myself coming back to every other week so far this season is, Wigan see injuries as an opportunity rather than a concern. The injury to Thomas Leuluai and the England call up for George Williams makes the next couple of weeks very interesting from a half back point of view. The Castleford game first up, will probably see a combination of O’Loughlin/Williams in the halves, as they finished the Catalans game. The reshuffle didn’t seem to effect Wigan too much and if anything, they improved with O’Loughlin’s presence in the middle of the field. There will be question marks over whether O’Loughlin can do the full 80 minutes however and whether that is a viable long term option, until Sam Tomkins returns.

One thing that Leuluai’s injury does allow, is the exciting prospect of Escare staying at fullback and Tomkins/Williams as the half back combination. A mouth-watering prospect if and when Tomkins returns to his best! I am however, more intrigued to see what Shaun Wane does for the Salford game with Leuluai, O’Loughlin and Williams missing – I am wondering whether I need to get my boots ready, just in case?! The options are, Tierney, Escare,

McIlorum and Powell to cover the 1,6,7 and 9 positions. Salford have no England internationals and have a settled, competitive team – so that game is going to be a very

interesting one.

 I am hoping, that the Salford game is the game which we see Josh Ganson make his debut for Wigan. I have been banging the drum for the Ganson bandwagon this season and I am very excited about his potential and I hope he gets his opportunity next week.

Sean Lawless