SHAUN Wane admits his Warriors are under pressure - but says that has fuelled his confidence.
He is aiming for his fourth straight Magic Weekend victory when his side face Super League leaders Leeds.
But Wigan have stumbled into the showcase event with two shock defeats, and will need to arrest a poor run of away form if they are to claim the two points.
Wane knows the glare of the media – and neutral fans alike – will be on his players, to see how they respond following last weekend’s 58-16 defeat at Catalans.
He said: “We tend to perform under pressure – and they’re under pressure now.
“The players are embarrassed about what happened in Catalans, they’re hurting and they want to put it right – and I’m so glad we’re playing the best team in the comp’.
“Everyone is excited because it’s a big week.”
Wane is convinced their poor display in the south of France was a blip.
“Catalans would have beaten any Super League team with that performance – no side could have lived with them,” he said. “Every bounce of the ball and every 50-50 decision went there way.
“Sometimes you have to hold your hand up. But we also recognise we need to make big improvements.”
Until successive defeats, Wigan had won their previous five straight matches – claiming three clean-sheets in the process. And Wane has shown his players footage of their golden run to remind them what they are capable of.
“We know we’ll need to be at our best to beat Leeds,” he said.
“But it was only three weeks ago people were saying we’re the best team in the league.
“So we’ve been showing them clips, putting them into pressure situations, and making sure they train to a very high standard, which they have done.
“We know what we can do when the pressure’s on, and it’s on right now.”
Leeds are three points clear of Wigan at the top of the table and boast an impressive squad featuring the likes of Ryan Hall, Kallum Watkins and Jamie Peacock, as well as in-form recruit Adam Cuthbertson.
“They’re very talented, they’ve got the best centres in the competition and they’re playing some outstanding rugby league,” said Wane.
“They defend with energy, and they have threats everywhere so we know we’ll be challenged, and we need to make sure we challenge them as well.”
Wigan’s game against Leeds (7pm kick-off) is the last of three games at Newcastle’s St James’ Park, with a crowd of 40,000 expected.
Three more games take place the following day.
“It’s going to be a great occasion, in front of a big crowd at a fantastic stadium,” added Wane.
“I love the Magic concept. It’s a new city for many of us, and I like how fans stay behind to watch other games. The whole event has got a real family, rugby league spirit to it.”