Wigan Warriors will start their 2016 Super 8s fixtures at home to Wakefield on Friday August 5, and head coach Shaun Wane is determined to get off to a strong start.
Wigan will be dealing with the after effects of tomorrow’s Challenge Cup semi-final, but need to make a flying start to have a chance of claiming a first League Leaders’ Shield since 2012.
And Wakefield isn’t the gentle start it might have been in years gone, with the Wildcats beating a depleted Wigan 62-0 in April before battling to the final seconds in a 22-18 Warriors win earlier this month.
“I think it’s exciting,” Wane said on the concept.
“We’ve got to the last three Grand Finals, so it’s really exciting for us and that’s why it’s so important that we get off to a good start when we play Wakefield.”
“They pushed us close recently when we were absolutely busted, but we won that game in the end.
“By the time the game comes around, they will have played Warrington in their Challenge Cup semi-final, so we’ll both be in a similar situation.
“It’s at home as well so I’m looking forward to that, but Chris Chester has got them playing really well, so I just want to make sure we a start well in the Super 8s – that’s the important thing.”
The big one in the race to the play-offs, though, is undoubtedly a home clash with St Helens on Friday, August 19.
Wigan lost 23-4 at home to Saints just last Friday, and Wane sees it as an opportunity for revenge.
“There is no running away from the fact that Saints were very, very good,” admitted Wane.
“The best team won and we had an off day, but I don’t think the result represented the game.
“Wigan v Saints is a full crowd again and hopefully we play a lot better and perform a lot better than what we did last week.”
The Warriors are still battling on three fronts for silverware this season.
They face Hull FC at Doncaster tomorrow night for a place in the Challenge Cup final, and are still in the race to win both the League Leaders’ Shield and the Grand Final.
And despite the current structure, which came in last season, having its critics, Wane admits the Super 8s has injected extra excitement into the final straight of the season.
“The concept is good and I think the RFL deserve to be congratulated,” Wane insisted.
“It’s exciting and we want to get a good start in order to give ourselves the best chance of getting back to Old Trafford.”