The 18th man column: 'Return of Sean O'Loughlin huge for Wigan Warriors'

Willie Isa in action last week
Willie Isa in action last week

Our 18th man columnists discuss Wigan's game against Castleford, the fixture switch and predict who will be relegated...

Do you think Wigan will beat Castleford tonight?

Jon Lyon: I do, but it’s going to be one hell of a game. With Castleford needing to win to guarantee a play-off place, Wigan will have to be at their very best to win. It is exactly the sort of game we need just before the start of the run-in to Old Trafford.

Cas have played very well recently and have most of their players fit so should give us a proper challenge, unlike Catalans last week.

Liam Farrell will be a huge loss to Wigan, but Joe Greenwood now has the opportunity to come in and show what he can do after a stop-start season, and the return of Lockers and Ben Flower should give the pack a huge lift.

If Tommy can keep up his exceptional recent form and we see some more magic from Bevan French like his sensational second try last week then we should have enough to see us home.

Darren Wrudd: Tonight will be a different proposition to last week against the Frenchmen.

Castleford have been going really well with five wins from their last seven and confidence is growing in the tigers camp, but let’s not forget who they are facing.

Under Adrian Lam’s guidance this year we have had it really tough for plenty of reasons.

But once we got our heads together and began to play the way that the new coach wanted, we have gradually developed into a world-class side. Hard working and hard as nails, the will to fight for one another is clear to see and a joy to watch.

So yes with Lockers and Flower coming back just at the right time of year I do have belief that we will prevail and secure second spot for our assault on Old Trafford.

David Bailey: Abso-flippin-lutely. There’s a real buzz around Wigan since the announcements of Hastings and Burgess and the arrival of Bevan French (what an impressive start he’s made by the way).

Wigan have somehow got themselves into pole position for 2nd place to give them a real chance of retaining their title and even though Cas are fighting for a play-off place Warriors have shown some really promising signs of late and should have too much.

Jeanette Lusher: You couldn’t write it, could you? We need to win to secure second in the league and Castleford need to win to get a top-five place!

I am confident of a win, though, especially as we have home advantage.

There is no doubt that this will be a very tough match but the tenacity and fervour with which the lads defended their line against Catalans, particularly in the opening 20 minutes, gives good reason to be confident.

The lads are buzzing, eager, determined and have gained in confidence week on week during the second half of the season.

Improvement does need to be shown however in better discipline and decisiveness at the end of each set than was displayed against Catalans. Additionally to secure the victory the lads must not give way to any complacency for Castleford are a good side and must be respected.

What are your thoughts on Wigan’s game being moved at less than a week’s notice?

Jon Lyon: I don’t honestly see the point in moaning about it. With so much to play for at the top and bottom end of the table, someone’s game was going to have to be moved, so why not ours?

It’s easy for me to say as I can make tonight’s game, and I feel for those who now can’t, but if we want (need) Sky’s money then we have to accept this is going to happen.

Crowds in recent weeks at the DW have been very poor, especially considering the team’s upturn in performances the last three or four months.

The late fixture change won’t help, but if fans were staying away anyway for whatever reason then it’s not really fair for them to moan now because of late rescheduling that we all knew could happen.

Darren Wrudd: Personally I did not mind even though I am not a fan of Thursday night games.

I do, however, know a couple of friends who will miss the game because of the reschedule and when fixtures are moved like that it is a real shame and should be avoided if possible.

It is understandable that logistics would have the game moved so that the bottom four teams can all play at the same time on Friday which is fair, but it will always be an unpopular option as people make plans around our rugby games which cannot always be rearranged.

David Bailey: If this doesn’t act as a wake-up call to the RFL and Super League then nothing will. The changing of the game at short notice benefits very few people and shied that Sky really only care about viewing figures and not the game as a whole and those that go week in week out.

I have friends in Cas who were coming and staying over but can’t because of work commitments.

How many young children can now no longer go as it’s a school night? There should be ground rules written into the next deal which sets certain standards such as ensuring the last round of regular season games kick-off simultaneously to avoid these situations.

Jeanette Lusher: I am not impressed at all! Is there not a thought for supporters?

Do Sky or the RFL give any consideration whatsoever to supporters who have work schedules?

Supporters who have children of school age? Supporters who travel lengthy distances to follow their team?

Supporters who sponsor and provide hospitality? Is there any thought given to financial loss?

Do Sky and the RFL give any compensation to the club for rearranging the event? Is there any compensation to the club for lost revenue due to a lower attendance? Is there any compensation to the club for hospitality cancellations?

Is there any compensation to supporters who have paid out for travel, accommodation and time off work? The very sad truth of it all is that the only thought given to anything is to bow to the demands of Sky Sports.

Who do you think will get relegated?

Jon Lyon: Sadly I just can’t see London lifting themselves once again as they did last week, which must have taken a huge amount out of them physically and mentally. Despite results, Wakefield have played well recently and I think they will have enough to beat the Broncos.

Huddersfield can count themselves really lucky the season is almost over. If it had gone on for another couple of weeks I think they would have been goners.

I hope I am wrong as London have far exceeded my expectations this year.

It was hard at the start of the season to see where they would pick up any points but they have been great to watch and I’d be happy to see Danny Ward pick up Coach of the Year at the end of season awards.

Darren Wrudd: Unfortunately I think it will be Huddersfield. Current form would see them struggle to gain points and it would be a real shame to see them relegated yet again.

I think that the balance of quality this year sees two definite levels in Super League and one could argue that the bottom four sides are just not good enough, but when London beat Saints home and away, beat Warrington and us too, how could you suggest that they are not Super League quality?

Huddersfield have been racked with injuries as have Hull KR. If it were down to simple quality of rugby, then I would have relegated Leeds without hesitation. Whoever it is, their club will lose money, staff will have to go and people will struggle on the back of it.

It might be exciting for the Sky pundits, but is it worth losing a Huddersfield or a London, just to bring in Toronto?

David Bailey: What a final round of games. Can London defy the odds one last time? They have been an asset to Super League this season and would love them to survive. I think it will be either them or Hull KR to go down and on that basis I will plump for KR.

Jeanette Lusher: The prediction pre-season was always that London Broncos would be the club to be relegated but what a revelation they have been.

They have shown such resilience throughout the season but especially last week to score in the last minute of the game to secure a victory for it threw open the door to survival!

I truly feel for all four clubs involved in staving off relegation. The pressure they must be under.

The desperation they must be feeling.

The despondency that will come to one of them. My fear is that now Hull KR will be relegated for my thoughts are that London will beat Wakefield; Huddersfield will beat Catalans and Salford will beat Hull KR.