SHAUN Wane has challenged his forwards to win the battle royale tonight.
He expects sparks to fly between Wigan and St Helens – particularly during the explosive clash in the middle of the Langtree Park pitch.
They have big middles, Mose Masoe causes damage to other teams, and it’s our job to challenge them. It’s a match we’re desperate to winShaun Wane
“We need to make sure we stand up to them, and win that specific battle,” said Wane.
“They have big middles, Mose Masoe causes damage to other teams, and it’s our job to challenge them. It’s a match we’re desperate to win.”
Wigan have won their last two matches, against top-four opponents Leeds and Huddersfield – victories which marked, and were motivated by, milestones for Micky McIlorum (200 games) and Sean O’Loughlin (350).
“So we’re trying to find a milestone for this weekend,” smiled Wane. “I think it was the chef’s 389th meal!”
Saints are on a three-game winning streak – coincidentally, both sides last came unstuck at Catalans.
Warriors will leapfrog St Helens into second spot if they win – while defeat would leave them trailing their fierce-rivals by three points.
“The league position... it honestly doesn’t bother me,” said Wane. “If we were bottom and they were top, it would still be game on.
“If we’d lost our last two games, we’d still be in the mood for this.”
St Helens are missing halfback Luke Walsh, while leading tryscorer Tommy Makinson injured his ankle in last Friday’s 32-12 win against Salford. Veteran Paul Wellens and full-back Jonny Lomax are also sidelined long-term.
But Wane dismissed suggestions Saints are more depleted than his squad.
“”They’ve lost a winger, but I’ve been without a winger all year with Josh Charnley out and then Pig (Dom Manfredi),” he said.
“We’re five or six starters down, and no-one mentions it.
“We’ve got Iain Thornley, Tony Clubb, Anthony Gelling out... I think both teams are a bit busted, we’re probably the worst.”
Around half of the players in action tonight have developed through Wigan or St Helens academy systems.
And while the Warriors boss says he is fortunate to operate in a rugby league hot-bed, he admits he would prefer some amateur clubs to take a different approach to junior coaching.
“We’re very lucky, the amateur set-ups in both areas is fantastic,” said Wane.
“We’ve got some great clubs and coaches, and we get some great talent.
“So it’s not like we’re getting these players and doing a miracle job with them – we can’t take the credit because others have done hard work with them.
“I just wish the (amateur) clubs would concentrate on skill a lot more, rather than playing structured.
“The players are well-coached, I just don’t want them over-coached – I want them to have skills. Trying to do what top teams do is not the important thing.
“If I coached Under-15s at Pat’s, I’d probably do the same. But it’s skills we need, that’s what we need to buy into.”