SHAUN Wane admits time is running out for Stuart Fielden to try and force his way back into the Wigan team.
The prop ended an 18-month injury exile when he played a game for the Under-20s against Salford 12 days ago.
But the 32-year-old needs to build-up his match-fitness and – owing to cruelly-timed scheduling – the Warriors’ second-string did not play last week and have no game this weekend.
That gives Fielden no chance to press a claim for Sunday’s trip to Hull KR, when the Warriors will clinch the league leaders’ shield if they win.
Wigan explored the option of allowing him to play on a dual-registration with a Championship or Championship One club to get some games under his belt.
But the deadline has passed, leaving Fielden kicking his heels in frustration as he waits for the U20s to begin their play-off campaign – around the same time Wigan’s senior side face St Helens on September 7.
Wane said: “There’s no doubt about it, time is running out for him.
“The ideal situation would have been to let Stu go on dual-registration to help build-up his match-fitness.”
Former Great Britain Test prop Fielden – out of contract at the end of this season – has been sidelined by knee and pectoral problems and has played just one Super League game, against former club Bradford in February 2011, since he signed a new two-year deal at the end of 2010. Wane has praised the way he has battled back from his setbacks, but won’t be swayed by sentiment as Wigan race towards the play-offs.
He said: “It’s unfortunate for Stu, the timing of everything, but we won’t be taking any risks.
“I’ll play my strongest side every week because every game, from now until we finish, is a massive one.
“They’re all really important games. We’re desperate to beat Hull KR this week to finish top of the ladder, our last game is at home to St Helens, so that’s one we definitely don’t want to lose, and then we’re into the play-offs.
“And we want to hit the play-offs in some great form and with some momentum.”
Wane confirmed Thomas Leuluai remained on course to return from injury against the Robins this Sunday, though his role may be limited to a bench-spot to ease him back into the fold.
Welsh prop Gil Dudson is also edging closer to full-fitness, though fellow front-rower Paul Prescott won’t play again this year after undergoing surgery on a knee injury last week.