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Grand Final preview
At Old Trafford, Saturday October 2, kick-off 6pm
It is fantastic to be back at Old Trafford for a second year for myself - but I feel it more for the players
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St Helens v Wigan Warriors
Saturday, 6pm KO
Live on Sky Sports HD2 from 5.30pm
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There will be more than just bragging rights up for grabs when arch rivals St Helens and Wigan meet on Saturday to decide who will be crowned engage Super League champions for 2010.
The top two at the end of the regular season have made it through the play-offs to contest a Grand Final of huge significance for both teams.
Saints are hoping to avoid an unprecedented fourth successive defeat in the showpiece fixture, having lost the last three finals to Leeds Rhinos.
While Old Trafford may not have been a happy hunting ground in recent years, they did manage to beat the Warriors in the 2000 Grand Final at the home of Manchester United.
Keiron Cunningham was in the St Helens team on that day and the veteran hooker will be hoping for a repeat result in his final game.
His club colleagues will be bidding to make sure that after 17 glorious seasons, the former Great Britain international goes out on a winning note.
However, Cunningham is not the only man who will be involved with Saints for the final time this weekend. Centre Matt Gidley will be returning to Australia after four years in England, while coach Mick Potter takes charge of his last game before moving on to Bradford.
"It is fantastic to be back at Old Trafford for a second year for myself - but I feel it more for the players," Potter said. "It is well deserved given how the semi-finals panned out.
"It is a testament to the hard work the players have put in all year and I happy we are here. We just need to do one more job."
Potter is unable to call upon Kyle Eastmond for his final game, the scrum-half having been ruled out with an ankle injury that he picked up in the 42-22 victory over Huddersfield last time out.
With Leon Pryce also missing, Matty Smith is certain to start in one of the half-back positions, particularly after impressing in his two play-off appearances since returning from a season-long loan spell with Salford - the club he will be joining on a permanent basis from next year.
Who will be his partner, however, is an issue that Potter will have to deal with. Utility back Jonny Lomax could be an option after recovering from a leg injury.
"We have got other options - we've got Chris Flannery, Jon Wilkin, Jonny Lomax, Gary Wheeler. There's a multitude of different options we can work with," Potter insisted. "As much as you lose one, I've got plan B, plan C and plan D ready to go."
Wigan, in contrast, have no injury worries following their impressive semi-final success over reigning champions Leeds at Headingley last Saturday.
Loose forward Sean O'Loughlin picked up a shoulder problem in that game but has been passed fit to take his place in an unchanged 19-man squad.
Warriors boss Michael Maguire could now name an unchanged line-up as he looks to win the title in his first year at the helm. The Cherry and Whites, once the dominant force in the northern hemisphere, have, surprisingly, not been crowned champions since winning the inaugural Grand Final in 1998.
Just like their opponents, Wigan will also be looking to give their experienced hooker the perfect send-off.
Mark Riddell has been released from the final year of his contract so he can return Down Under to be closer to his mother, who has cancer.
"This was definitely one of my goals when I came over here," the former Parramatta Eel said. "When I spoke to the club about coming it was about the opportunity to win trophies.
"It's finally come and I'm looking forward to it and hopefully putting in a good performance.
"This is the biggest game of my career - I've never played in a Grand Final before.
Wigan won the League Leaders' Shield for finishing top of the table at the end of the regular season. They now also boast the newly-crowned Man of Steel in winger Pat Richards, who was given the award at a gala dinner on Monday.
St. Helens squad: Wellens, Gardner, Gidley, Soliola, Meli, Cunningham, Graham, Puletua, Wilkin, Flannery, Roby, Hargreaves, Clough, Ashurst, Dixon, Lomax, Emmitt, Foster, Smith
Wigan squad: Roberts, Gleeson, Carmont, Richards, S. Tomkins, Leuluai, Fielden, Riddell, Coley, Hansen, J. Tomkins, S. O'Loughlin, Prescott, McIlorum, Paleaaesina, Deacon, Goulding, Farrell, Tuson.
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First Utility Super League Table
|5||Hull K R||0||0|
|7||Salford Red Devils||0||0|
|First Utility Super League|
|Thursday 5th February|
|20:00||Widnes vs Wigan|
|Friday 6th February|
|20:00||St Helens vs Catalans Dragons|
|Saturday 7th February|
|15:00||Warrington vs Salford|
|Sunday 8th February|
|15:00||Huddersfield vs Hull|
|15:00||Hull K R vs Leeds|
|15:30||Castleford vs Wakefield|
|Thursday 12th February|
|20:00||Salford vs St Helens|
|Friday 13th February|
|20:00||Hull vs Warrington|
|20:00||Leeds vs Widnes|
|20:00||Wigan vs Huddersfield|
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