Super League: Wigan Warriors v St Helens preview
Last Updated: 27/06/14 11:37am
Wigan Warriors could snatch top spot from rivals St Helens when the pair lock horns at the DW Stadium in Friday’s lone Super League encounter.
Nathan Brown’s Saints enter the Round 18 derby with a two-point advantage over their neighbours, but victory for reigning champions Wigan would see them move to the Super League summit courtesy of their free-scoring form.
The Warriors have raced in more tries (99) than any other side in this season’s competition on their way to a positive points difference of 252, while Saints are just 181 in the black despite chalking up 95 tries.
Although relentless in attack, the defending Super League champions will be on a recovery mission following their 36-28 reverse at the hands of Wakefield, with the Wildcats claiming their first win over the Warriors since 2009 at the Rapid Solicitors Stadium last Sunday.
St Helens maintained their league lead with a 38-16 triumph over Castleford Tigers at Langtree Park, with Paul Wellens and Mark Percival both crossing the whitewash twice.
Warriors coach Shaun Wane welcomes back Matty Bowen, Joe Burgess, Gil Dudson, Dom Crosby and John Bateman to the squad after they all missed the defeat to Wakefield.
Liam Farrell has been ruled out after being handed a one-match ban for lifting Taulima Tautai in Sunday’s clash, while Anthony Gelling retains his place having submitted an early guilty plea to his charge of punching in the same match.
Josh Charnley and Darrell Goulding are both ruled out through injury and are replaced by Dom Manfredi and Cumbrian half-back Jamie Doran, who is called in from the club’s Under 19 side as cover for Sam Powell, who has been battling with injury.
Meanwhile, Brown has made just two changes to the Saints squad which prevailed against the Tigers on home soil.
Alex Walmsley returns from suspension and Josh Jones is also recalled as Gary Wheeler and Andre Savelio lose their place for the short trip to the backyard of their fiercest rivals.
Despite being in possession of top spot, Brown has warned his players they must be hungrier if they are to see off a Wigan side that triumphed in the Good Friday fixture between the pair at Langtree Park.
"We're looking forward to the derby," he told the club’s official website. "The intensity is higher and it is usually a higher quality game than most other Super League matches.
“The local Saints and Wigan lads look forward to it in particular and there is a lot of good rivalry there.
"They beat us physically last time and we know they can start quite well. They started better than us, then we fought back, and then their start was better in the second half. We need to start better and be hungrier.”
Wigan Warriors: Bateman, Bowen, Burgess, Burke, Crosby, Doran, Dudson, Flower, Gelling, Hughes, James, Manfredi, Murphy, O'Loughlin, S. Powell, Sarginson, Smith, Taylor, Williams
St Helens: Makinson, Turner, Jones, Swift, Hohaia, Walsh, Masoe, Roby, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Soliola, Wilkin, Manu, Flanagan, Wellens, Walmsley, Percival, Dawson, Richards, Thompson
Watch Wigan Warriors v St Helens live on Sky Sports 1HD from 7:30pm
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Super League 2014, round 18
James Webster had mixed emotions after Wakefield were denied a third successive victory by Hull FC.
Brian McDermott admitted the better team lost after his Leeds Rhinos beat Catalan Dragons 32-21 with a late penalty.
Warrington ran in nine tries during a 50-24 win over Bradford in Jimmy Lowes' first match in charge of the Bulls.