Wane expects a real fight for centre spots

Centre Dan Sarginson hasn't played in nearly seven months
Centre Dan Sarginson hasn't played in nearly seven months

SHAUN Wane expects a real three-way tussle for the centre spots this year.

And he hopes the dilemma of choosing between Dan Sarginson, Anthony Gelling and Oliver Gildart for the two roles will drive up the level of their performances.

The emergence of Gildart as a genuine first-team contender looks set to make the centre position one of the most hotly-contested in the side.

And it will mirror the battle for wing spots last year, when Wane had a trio of top-quality players - Joe Burgess, John Charnley and Dom Manfredi - battling for their positions.

“I think the competition (for centre spots) will be really tight, I honestly do,” said Wane.

“I’d love to have that throughout the squad, for all the positions, but it’s obviously hard to manage when you have such a big squad.

“When we have that competition in certain places, it’s no coincidence that we have players playing well.”

Wane has three second-rowers of similar stature in his squad - Joel Tomkins, Liam Farrell and fast-developing John Bateman are all England internationals.

But, of course, he accommodates a back-rower on the bench, whereas it is rare to put an outside back as a substitute.

That fact alone should dial up the competition among the three specialist centres.

All have their merits.

Sarginson is an England international and though he hasn’t played a game at any level in nearly seven months, he is confident he will be fit for the start of the new season.

The ex-London Broncos ace has bulked up during the lay-off with a hamstring injury, and declared he will be “flying” for the new campaign, which begins with a home clash against Catalans next Friday.

Gelling, 25, was handed the No.3 shirt last year but his form has been erratic, and he dropped out of the reckoning by the end of the season, missing out on selection for the Grand Final.

But the Cook Islands international has been praised by Wane for his commitment during pre-season and, on his day, his presence offers a unique threat.

In a three-way tussle for two spots, many may expect 19-year-old Gildart to start the new campaign last in the pecking order, if only because of his age and inexperience.

But he showed last season he is comfortable at this level - given he debuted in the Super 8s, he has only ever faced the better teams in the league.

And Wane has shown in the past he is happy to reward young players who are in form.