Wigan Warriors' George Williams poised for 'exciting' duel with Warrington's Blake Austin

Adrian Lam expects the dual between between Blake Austin and George Williams to provide one of the exciting subplots to Friday's clash at Warrington.

Wednesday, 13th March 2019, 12:54 pm
Updated Wednesday, 13th March 2019, 2:03 pm
George Williams "has been quiet for the last two weeks"

Austin has made an instant impression on Super League after arriving from Canberra.

And he will go head-to-head with another marquee-contracted player, Williams, at the Halliwell Jones.

Lam has admitted the speculation over Williams' future - he is set to join Canberra in 2020 - has had an impact on his form during their poor start to the season.

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But he has backed the 24-year-old to step up against the pre-season favourite for the Steve Prescott Man of Steel.

"Blake Austin was one of the best attacking halves in the NRL last year, and he's played well for Warrington," said Lam.

"In saying that, we feel we've got one of the best players in the country in George, and they'll be facing each other on Friday night, which is exciting.

"Rugby league is a team sport, but it's also about personal battles and I love all that - I think it brings the best out of players."

It is understood Williams has agreed to join Canberra next season and though it hasn't been confirmed, Lam hopes he can make an impression.

"He's gone a bit quiet the last couple of weeks and that's expected," Lam said. "I know that George has always wanted to play in the NRL and that's his decision.

"Whenever that may fall, we'll sort that out as it goes along. I'm not too concerned at the moment about that, as long as George is happy and the club are happy.

"It's about giving him our support. He's one of our key players and probably our go-to player at the moment.

"He needs to play well and there's a little bit of pressure on him to perform this week and hopefully you'll see a different George Williams on Friday night."

Williams will have a new half-back partner, with Thomas Leuluai set to switch to hooker in the absence of Sam Powell with an ankle injury.

Experienced half-back Jarrod Sammut is poised for a recall, with Jake Shorrocks set for his first outing for more than two years as a bench hooker.

The 23-year-old suffered a serious knee injury he suffered in February 2017 but has caught the eye of Lam in training and has been included in his 19-man squad for Friday's game.

"Jake's been outstanding in pre-season," Lam said. "He's been one of the highlights.

"The sad thing about rugby league in this country at the moment is there's no reserve-grade competition so he hasn't played any games.

Wigan have second rower Joe Greenwood and centre Dan Sarginson back from injury but forward Taulima Tautai starts a three-match ban and wingers Dom Manfredi and Liam Marshall are both sidelined with facial and knee injuries picked up in the defeat by Huddersfield last Friday.

"Dom had his teeth knocked back and one of them broken in half," Lam said. "He's also broken the top of his mouth which is not a good thing but it's an injury that may be only one week.

"Liam Marshall will be out for between two and six weeks and Sam Powell is the same with an ankle sprain."

Warrington coach Steve Price recalls centre Ryan Atkins in place of Bryson Goodwin, who is facing two weeks out with an ankle injury sustained in the win over Castleford.