Shaun Wane is doubtful Micky McIlorum will be fit to face Castleford on Thursday, but has stopped short of ruling the hooker out altogether.
McIlorum hasn’t played since suffering a broken and dislocated ankle in the World Club Series match against Brisbane in February 2016, but is nearing a return to action.
The amount of time he’s been off, I’m not going to rush him backShaun Wane
It is hoped he will be named in Wane’s squad to face the table-topping Tigers at the DW Stadium this week, but the coach insists the 29-year-old won’t be rushed back.
“Whether it’s at Easter or whether it’s against Cas, I’m not sure when it’s going to be,” Wane told Wigan Today.
“He’ll be fit and he’ll be raring to go. He’ll be confident.
“The amount of time he’s been off, I’m not going to rush him back for a week now, no matter what trouble I’m in. The person I care about is Micky so we’ll be ready when he wants to come back.”
McIlorum is back in training after suffering a further setback in his injury nightmare.
He needed further surgery which torpedoed his hopes to start the season.
But Wane says the star is itching to get back into action, and was frustrated to sit out last Friday’s loss to Leeds.
“I know him very well and he would have been firing to play in that game against his hometown club,” he said.
“I need to be pretty stern with him and I want Micky to be good, so when he’s right we’ll probably give him another week, or two weeks in fact.
“I’ll be the judge.
“We have a great medical department and they understand that what he’s had is a traumatic injury and we need to make sure he’s good to come back and he’s in a healthy state when he comes back.”
In McIlorum’s absence, Sam Powell has done an outstanding job at hooker and was named the club’s Players’ Player of the Year last season.
He has not missed a game since McIlorum broke his ankle in February 2016, and often played long minutes.
Wane smiled: “He’s not always wanted to do 80 minutes - I got a message with 20 to go against Hull saying ‘Sam’s really struggling’, so I just ignored it!
“But he’s done a great job. Some of the the areas where he was lacking - his movement from dummy-half, his long-passing game - are miles better now.
“They’re so impressive, and it’s gives us a different attacking threat. I like Sam Powell.”
Although Jake Shorrocks has made a few appearances from the bench, Wane has tended to favour four forwards as substitutes.
And he admits the knock-on effect from McIlroum’s return will be felt among the props and second-rowers.
“Whoever is best will start, the other off the bench,” said Wane. “If Sam’s playing well, he’ll carry on (starting). If Micky’s playing better, he’ll play.
“I’ll go with my heart.
“That’s something which never stresses me. It won’t bother me in the slightest when Sam (Tomkins) comes back.
“I know I got hammered when I said it’ll be an easy decision, but it will be, because if Sam is playing really well (at full-back) I’ll find somewhere else for Morgan to play.
“If Morgan is playing well, he’ll stay there, I’ll find somewhere else for Sam to play. It’s really simple for me.”
Meanwhile,Wane also revealed he isn’t sure whether Anthony Gelling and Liam Farrell will be fit for Thursday. The pair sat out last Friday’s match.