The pressure is on St Helens, says Wigan Warriors ace Oliver Gildart

Oliver Gildart
Oliver Gildart

Oliver Gildart insists the pressure is all on St Helens in tonight’s derby showdown.

The Warriors’ resurgence – which has seen them climb to fourth on the back of five straight victories – will receive a thorough examination at the Totally Wicked Stadium.

Saints have lost just two of their 21 Super League matches and are 16 points further ahead than Wigan.

But Gildart is encouraged and excited by their gradual improvement – and questioned how much growth is in Justin Holbrook’s side.

“Saints have bee brilliant all year – they may not get much get better, but we feel there’s a lot of improvement in us,” said the England centre.

“We have to take every game as a Grand Final, we’re not in a privileged position like Saints that they can afford a few slip yups. But that keeps us on our toes and keeps us working hard.

“Saints and Warrington have been the benchmark this year, they’ve been outstanding, but the pressure is on those teams.

“They’ve performed well all year. Saints have been outstanding and if we get a good result then people may start worrying.”

Wigan have won eight of their last 10 Super League matches to pull away from the intense battle at the bottom of the Super League ladder.

“We did this last year, there’s no real pressure on us, we’re coming up the ladder,” said Gildart.

“Facing Saints is the one we can see where we are. We’re way off where we can be.”

Team-mate Zak Hardaker echoed Gildart’s thoughts, and still sees plenty of room for improvement despite their 52-10 victory against Hull KR last week.

“I still think we’re a 6/10 in terms of solid team performance,” said the full-back. “Saints are probably 8/10 or 9/10 each week, we’re at a 6/10, so we’ll see where we’re at in this game.”

Hardaker has yet to enjoy a Wigan-Saints derby victory and is determined to give the army of travelling fans something to smile about.

But he isn’t burdening himself with the extra pressure of what this match may say about their Grand Final aspirations.

“This is a massive game, having played for Wigan twice and lost twice I’d love to get one over on them,” he said.

“We’re five from five, they’re travelling really well and that’s exciting. But we don’t want to make it too big, because although the result does matter, in the grand scheme of things... if we win we won’t be saying we can win the Grand Final, if we lose we won’t say that we can’t.

“We want to play well, carry on this form and combinations and be the team we know we can be.

“We’ve been building each week, we’ve got the hunger and desire and we know if we’re beaten, we’ll be beaten by a good side.”

St Helens are without forward Joseph Paulo who has a calf strain but hope to have captain James Roby back from a month’s absence due to groin surgery.

Back-up hooker Aaron Smith is also back in the squad after recovering from a whiplash injury.

Wigan will give prop Tony Clubb a late fitness test on the calf injury he picked up in the win over Hull KR and have Liam Byrne standing by. Otherwise, the Warriors will be unchanged as they seek a sixth straight win.