'Wigan Warriors are once again a tough team to beat' - Sam Powell
Sam Powell believes Wigan will take some stopping as they dial up their bid for an unlikely Grand Final assault.
The Warriors were ninth a few weeks ago and in danger of being dragged into the relegation scrap.
But they have surged up the ladder with five straight wins - and their renewed confidence will receive a thorough test at pace-setters St Helens this evening.
Powell sees this derby as a chance to gauge their progress against the Super League’s leading side.
And win or lose, he will head over to the Totally Wicked Stadium with the confidence they will be a hard team.
He said: “We’re showing good signs, we’re showing good habits, we’re training awesome – we’re not looking at ticking boxes.
“Whatever the result, win or lose, we’re going to be a tough team to beat - and I probably couldn’t have said that earlier this year.
“They’re pretty consistent, and they’ll be speaking about not letting it drop.
“They’ve set a standard and I’m sure they’ll be disappointed if they dip under it.
“We’ll have to be at our best and we’ll give it our best shot.
“We’ve got a few senior players missing, and we’ve not had a 100 per cent fit team yet and if we can get that at the back end and keep improving, we’ll be a tough team to stop.”
Powell is expected to again start at hooker, having been moulded into the No.9 role despite emerging from the junior ranks as a halfback.
And he admits his opposite number James Roby – set to return from an injury lay-off – has set the benchmark in recent years. “He’s right at the top,” said Powell. “He’s a great competitor.
“The best thing is how consistent he has been for a number of years.
“He’s a bit like Lockers is for us, he’s the No.1 and has been for years.”
Now 27, Powell has played in his fair share of derbies but the fixture has lost none of its kudos.
“I still get nervous and when you arrive at the ground, there’s a buzz, the atmosphere is awesome,” he added.
“These are the games you want to win and you find an extra percentage for.”
Kick-off tonight is at 7.45pm and Wigan were yesterday afternoon had fewer than 200 standing tickets remaining of their 2,600 allocation. The game is not on Sky Sports.