Wembley places still up for grabs

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MICHAEL Maguire admits there is still time for his players to win – or lose – a Wembley shirt.

Warriors entertain the Bradford Bulls tonight in their last hit-out before next weekend’s Challenge Cup final against Leeds.

Maguire has resisted the temptation to ring the changes and rest some of his front-line players, naming a strong squad for the visit of the Bulls.

But, with a couple of Wembley places still up for grabs, the Wigan coach insists a decent showing from any of his players could see them cementing their place in the final 17.

“The focus is on Bradford, and players are basically playing for positions,” he said.

“Every day has been competitive and they’re doing it for each other but also for themselves.

“They all want to play in the final, and we’re using this game to try and build some momentum going into the final.

“There are a lot of positions still available for Wembley and so if I roll a few, it will be good for the competition to see my options.”

Maguire believes his players will have two motivating factors for wanting to shine tonight – with Wigan needing the league points to stay ahead of Warrington at the top of the table.

“We’ve got a big prize at the end of the season which we’re also working towards, the Grand Final, and so as big as Wembley is, we’re also aware how important it is to get the two points,” he added.

“It’s a big couple of weeks for us and it’ll be a big test for us. But we have the squad for it and we’re looking forward to it.

“We know that Old Trafford’s not far away and we have our eye on that, but it’s about managing the squad and maintaining our standards. We need to make sure we prepare as we can – if we do that, we’ll be fine.”

Two players, in particular, will be keen to impress Maguire ahead of next week’s showpiece.

Gareth Hock and Paul Prescott appear to be fighting for the one spot after Ben Cross suffered a badly broken arm against Salford last week. And Maguire says the door is still open for Hock – who was surprisingly left out of the semi-final victory over St Helens – to stake his claim.

“I thought Salford was Gareth’s best game since he’s come back, he showed his offload game and ran the ball well,” he admitted.

Bradford saw their hopes of reaching the play-offs all-but evaporate with a crushing home defeat to Hull KR last weekend.

But Maguire believes the Bulls players will have a point to prove at the DW tonight.

“We’ll do our homework on Bradford, but we’ll be doing a lot to make sure we’re at our best,” he acknowledged.

“Bradford have a big pack and some good kickers, they complete their sets, so it’s about getting into the arm-wrestle and play to our standards – that’s the big thing.”

l WIGAN’S Under-18s play Bradford tomorrow at Orrell, kick-off 2pm, which will crown the “Fans’ Day” which gets underway at 12noon.