Wigan Warriors’ new attacking ploy can cause teams damage, says Powell

Sam Powell playing against Leigh in a pre-season friendly
Sam Powell playing against Leigh in a pre-season friendly

Sam Powell is confident Wigan’s new attacking ploy will cause teams “some damage” this season.

With Micky McIlorum departing in the off-season, Shaun Wane has had to rejig the ‘spine’ of his side.

Sam Powell is set to play halfback and hooker

Sam Powell is set to play halfback and hooker

The Warriors boss is set to take a flexible approach to who fills the key positions, which involves Powell switching from halfback to hooker during the game.

The move is likely to see Sam Tomkins alternate between to No.1 and stand-off, which allows hooker Thomas Leuluai to be replaced by French livewire full-back Morgan Escare.

Wane used the ploy in the friendly against Leigh, and the obvious benefit is it gets Escare and Tomkins on the pitch at the same time – with the former introduced against tiring defences before half-time.

Powell believes they will reap the rewards from their fluid approach.

“I think that’s why they’ve done it to be honest, to give it a bit of rotation,” said Powell.

“Morgan Escare is an exciting player, and when he comes on against a tired middle, he’ll hopefully do some damage. He’s hard working, and with the ball in his hands, he can do stuff that plenty of other players can’t, so we’ve got to have him on the pitch.”

The 25-year-old, who has been handed the coveted No.7 shirt for this season, says he is equally comfortable at half or hooker.

“Tommy is a really good No.9, I’m okay there, so I play a bit of both and that’s what I enjoy really,” he said.

“Obviously my first job is to guide us round the pitch up until Tommy has his first spell (on the sidelines). I get the chance to get stuck in when Tommy goes off for a little bit, and hopefully come against some more tired middles myself.

“Getting the No.7 has been humbling really, I was speaking earlier about the past players who have worn it, and I just want to do it proud and give it my best shot.”

Wigan travel to Salford tonight with a point to prove after the way their 2017 campaign fizzled out.

They appeared to pick themselves up for a play-offs charge but defeats to Castleford and Wakefield saw them finish in sixth - and outside the play-offs spots.

Having reached the previous four Grand Finals, it was a disappointing way to end a year which had seen them land the World Club Challenge and reach the Wembley Challenge Cup Final.

With little movement in the off-season, some pundits are tipping them to again miss out on the top-four – but many bookmakers have them as the second favourites to be triumphant at Old Trafford.

“ I understand why there’s a bit of a difference there with the way we finished – it is not the way we usually do,” he said.

“We’ve put some hard work in this pre-season, like every team has, and we’ll hopefully put a few wrongs right.

“It’s been a long pre-season. It’s been a bit longer to what we usually have as we finished the season a bit earlier, but it’s been real tough and enjoyable.

“We’re happy with where we’re at, and when we play Salford, we’ll see where we are actually at.” McIlorum wasn’t replaced and Dan Sarginson’s arrival was as a direct replacement for Anthony Gelling. With no outside strengthening, what has changed at Wigan?

“The main thing for me is the way the lads push each other every day,” continued Powell.

“We speak about culture, and a challenging culture, and that’s what it’s been like.

“In the weights room every day, there is scores on the board so everyone can see what everyone is lifting, and it’s challenging. “All the runs get timed on the board so you don’t really want to be last, or in the middle, you want to be up there so for me, making it challenging is a good environment.”

Salford have had a major change off the field, with new owners taking over from the colourful Marwan Koukash, but coach Ian Watson has only tinkered with his squad.

“They’re an organised team that runs good shapes,” added Powell, who will depart to Australia with the Wigan squad tomorrow lunchtime for two games in New South Wales.

“They always seem to start very well, up to the Super-8s last year they were very consistent, so I’d expect them to be pretty much the same. They are a similar team to us with the shapes they run, they are very organised and have got players with good skills.

“It’s obviously going to be exciting to fly over to Australia, it’s going to be an awesome trip, but the first job is to go and get the two points in our first game, then we’ll start thinking about New South Wales.”