Thursday, 5 February 2015

The Time Has Come For Widnes/Wigan

Barely a day goes by without thoughts of that fateful day in October where just three minutes into the Grand Final, Wigan's hopes of back-to-back titles were dashed but tonight's opponents Widnes suffered an earlier exit after succumbing to a Warrington comeback in late September.

Both sides will be eager to begin the season on a high with the Warriors looking to avoid back-to-back defeats at the Select Security Stadium after a humbling 24-10 loss in their final away game of 2014 back in August. Widnes will hope lightning strikes twice as to defeat the bookies favourites for glory this year would be the perfect start for the Vikings.

In terms of records, Wigan have won four of the last five meetings with an interesting statistic being that they have only conceded four points in three of the four games but to repeat such a feat for a fourth time would rely on Widnes being uncharacteristically poor which is unlikely.

Recent years have seen Widnes tagged as 'Wigan B' at times due to a flurry of ex-Warriors in their squad and with the pre-season acquisition of Gil Dudson, the Vikings boast eight former Warriors so will have an extensive knowledge of the workings of tonight's visitors. The Vikings have named all but the injured Dudson in the 19 so for the travelling fans their will be a lot of familiar faces in Black and White.

Aside from Dudson, Widnes have strengthened across the field with the arrival of Manase Manukafoa (Bradford), Chris Clarkson (loan from Leeds) and a big signing in the form of Aaron Heremaia (Hull).

Wigan traditionally suffer an exodus in pre-season but for once, their have been more arrivals than departures with the returning home of talismanic half-back Blake Green coupled with the permanent exit of the aforementioned Gil Dudson and Hull KR bound Darrell Goulding. Scott Taylor and Jack Hughes have joined Salford and Huddersfield on loan with fellow forward Greg Burke going on loan to Hull KR.

Arrivals at the DW Stadium see the return of Lee Mossop after a short stint in the NRL with Wigan finally completing their pursuit of Larne Patrick who joins on loan from Huddersfield as part of a swap with Jack Hughes while Taulima Tautai joins after a mid-2014 signing from Wakefield and is valued as a good prospect.

Both sides have named strong 19's ahead of what will surely be a superb opening to the 'New Era of Rugby League'

Widnes:  Ah Van, Brown, Cahill, Carberry, Clarkson, Craven, Dean, Gerrard, Hanbury, Heremaia, Hulme, Isa, Kavanagh, Manuokafoa, Marsh, Mellor, O'Carroll, Phelps, Tickle.
Wigan : Bateman, Bowen, Burgess, Charnley, Clubb, Crosby, L. Farrell, C. Farrell, Gelling, McIlorum, O'Loughlin, Patrick, Powell, Smith, Sutton, Tautai, J. Tomkins, L. Tomkins, Williams.