SHAUN Wane is taking a fresh approach to try and ensure Wigan make a flying start to the new season.
Statistics give weight to the argument that the Warriors suffer from having players on international duty.
The more players they have in the England squad, the poorer they have started the following season.
And given the cherry and whites had twice as many England representatives this year as their nearest rivals – six, compared to Leeds’ three – Wane has taken action to try and avoid another sluggish start.
He has told players involved in the Test series triumph against New Zealand to stay away from the training ground until the start of next year.
By contrast, at this stage a year ago, the England players were with their Wigan team-mates at a warm-weather camp in Florida.
Hopefully, once they’ve had a decent rest, we’ll get the best of them a few weeks into the new seasonShaun Wane
Wane said: “They’re having more time than they have in the past. I’m not really going to drive them hard early on, we’re letting them have a few weeks off and come in when they’re ready.
“Obviously they’ll do their own thing and keep ticking over, like all the lads do on their break, but they’ll only come back in on January 2 and I’m not sure if they’ll play in the friendlies yet.
“Hopefully, once they’ve had a decent rest, we’ll get the best of them a few weeks into the new season.”
Although Wigan have reached the last three Grand Finals, they have started the campaigns slowly – and Wane has no doubts about the impact of the internationals on his side’s preparations. Of course there are other factors to consider, not least the quality of the opposition in the opening rounds and player turnover in the off-season.
But a glance through the results shows a distinct pattern between the number of players on England duty and how Wigan have fared early in the following season.
Since Wane was promoted to the senior set-up as Michael Maguire’s assistant at the end of 2009 , they have started stronger when fewer players have been called up.
Twice they have won four of their opening five games – in 2010 and 2012 – and on both occasions, only one or two players were in the England set-up the previous autumn.
By contrast, at the start of this year Wigan won just one of their opening five games – having had seven players on the Four Nations tour in 2014.
And it was a similar story last term, when they won two of their opening five games when six players had been with England – and six more with other nations in the 2013 World Cup.
Patriotic Wane stressed he takes pride from seeing his players earn call-ups for Test duty.
“It’s a credit to our club and our system that we get those players in,” he added. “But the down side is it impacts on us the following year.
“So we need to make sure we’re smart as staff, and we’re as prepared as we can be for the following season.”
The six players involved with England in the autumn were captain Sean O’Loughlin, Matty Smith, Liam Farrell, George Williams, John Bateman and NRL-bound Joe Burgess.
Returning full-back Sam Tomkins was also in the squad before a knee injury forced him to quit.
He will be sidelined until around Easter.
Wane will take his senior squad to an army camp in Yorkshire next week, having shelved plans to train in America.