Too close to call? Ask the experts!
Last Updated: 01/10/10 4:29pm
Cunningham: can he bow out with a win in the Grand Final?
Excitement is building for Saturday's Super League Grand Final between Wigan and St Helens as the top two from the regular league season come up against each other.
St Helens v Wigan Warriors
5.30pm, Sat, Sky Sports HD2 & Sky Sports 2
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"Watch those centres! Gleeson and Carmont were defensively outstanding against Leeds and will need to bring that attitude on Saturday when they face off against Gidley and Flannery."
Brian Carney Quotes of the week
For the last three years St Helens have been runners-up in the Grand final, while it has been twelve long years since Wigan last lifted the trophy.
With both sides fielding world class players it promises to be a cracking tournament and skysports.com caught up with Brian Carney, Barrie McDermott and Terry O'Connor to get their views on Saturday's Grand Final.
Wigan are methodical in their approach to games this year. Play wide in the opposition 40 meters only, otherwise roll your sleeves up, minimise risk and get the ball into the opposition half. They can grind like that for 80 minutes.
Saints have dealt with the huge loss of Sean Long to Hull and they have been without his replacement Kyle Eastmond for important parts of the season. They are still one of the competitions most exciting teams. Maybe a little of the flair they were known for has left but their ability to create drama is undiminished.
Kick, receive and chase. The kicking game is crucial. Wigan need to improve theirs from the semi v Leeds and will look to Thomas Leuluai , Sam Tomkins and Paul Deacon to pin Saints near their line. Saints will know that they must create quick ball the play before Matty Smith decides to use his kicking game to punish Wigan. Look to Jon Wilkin to put his hand up to share the duties with Smith. Come to Old Trafford with a poor kicking game and you will be punished. Pat Richards and Sam Tomkins for Wigan and Paul Wellens and Francis Meli for Saints will capitalise on errant kicks or a weak line of chase.
Watch those centres! Martin Gleeson and George Carmont were defensively outstanding against Leeds and will need to bring that attitude on Saturday when they face off against Matt Gidley and Chris Flannery , two very talented footballers. While The Saints pair will throw plenty at Wigan, they too will have to be switched on when it comes to shutting down Wigan's efficient and consistent wide shift plays.
Ones to watch
Wigan, Joel Tomkins - a young backrower in career best form. Aggressive in defence and capable of scoring tries when Wigan shift the ball
Saints, Sia Soliola - Saints only major signing this season and he was unfortunate to pick up a serious injury very early on. Back on the field now and surely feeling fresh, his at times brutally aggressive ability in defence is a welcome sight for team mates who have played 30 tough games.
Wigan winning at Saints, Saints getting the goods at the DW in an enthralling encounter. Pick a winner? Better ask an expert !!!!
The weather tends to play a big part because it is almost always raining and the Manchester weather never lets us down. So for me the key area is the kicking game. Wigan through Paul Deacon have got a fantastic kicking game and he really steers the Warriors around in the middle of the park. The game management that he has got - knowing when to kick, where to kick and what his team mates will do off the back of his kicks will play a massive part in this game.
Likewise for Matty Smith and Saints. Smith spent the season on loan to Salford but he has been recalled in the last couple of weeks and his kicking game has been excellent too a vital part of what they have done over the last few weeks. Smith won't have the luxury of having Leon Pryce of Kyle Eastmond along side him so a lot will rest on his shoulders.
Up in the forwards it is going to be a real tussle. The Wigan forwards really like to dominate their opponents in what we call the ruck and the wrestle. They control how quickly their opponents play the ball. If they are in control of your speed or lack of it then you cannot generate that momentum. Through players like Joel Tomkins and Stuart Fielden, they really dominate that area. But Saints are very skilful too and have rugby players of the finest quality. Players like James Graham, Sia Soliola and Keiron Cunningham will be up for this battle. Who is to say that Keiron Cunningham won't pop over for a try in this game either.
There strength is their ability to attack compared to the Wigan side who slow the ball down and restrict their opponents.
Ones to watch
Saints plenty of strike power in the backline. Matt Gidley has been at the top of his game for over a decade. Keiron Cunningham in his last game will be really fired up for this and raring to get stuck into Wigan
For Wigan well Sam Tomkins has a Billy Slater role to play - he can score tries and he can set them up. He will enjoy the big spaces of Old Trafford will offer him.
The current Man of Steel Pat Richards will also be one to watch. He is very good in the air, a terrific goal kicker and he is also a super broken field runner too. Saints will have their hands full watching him.
We are in for a very tough and a very close game. There is a very different theme to this Grand Final too as both side will honour the memory of Terry Newton. Terry played for Wigan with distinction and was a thorn in the side of Saints for many years - both teams respected him greatly. I am going to go for a Saints victory because I think by the narrowest of margins they have the edge and are a more attacking minded.
Wigan are going to have to stop Saints at the ruck. Sometimes when you look at St Helens they look like a U9 side where they all congregate behind the ruck anticipating the quick break. However no U9 side I know have the players like James Roby and Keiron Cunningham or James graham to make so much of that quick ball. Wigan like to slow the ball down in this are so it is going to be very interesting to see who comes out top here.
Wigan have been so immense this year and their youngsters have been amazing. McGuire has put a lot of faith in them and they have rewarded him well. He has gone with youth over experience in a lot of games - when experience did not perform he culled them. No matter who you are, you jersey is not safe and that is how it should be and all the Wigan players have become hungry and that shows by their performances.
Well take your pick - they battles are going to be all over the pitch. I am looking forward to seeing these forwards tear into each other. Stuart Fielden is back to his best and will lead by example. You need to get on the front foot with your forwards to get some extra time and space for your backs. Your kicking game is going to be pretty vital too.
Ones to watch
You cannot look past Keiron Cunningham. He has such a huge impact on the way Saints play and they are a totally different side when he is on the pitch. This is his final game so I am expecting him to give it his all. Wigan really need to keep a close ye on him. However smother Cunningham and Roby pops up and does something, if not Roby then James Graham.
Wigan have got so many stars all over the field - Pat Richards who was Man of Steel, Sam Tomkins who was young player of the year. His emergence has been outstanding and he is something very special. Wigan have been starved for success for a number of years and will be desperate to get some silverware on Saturday.
This could go either way. It is going to be a cracker. If you went on form then you would say Wigan, however from an emotional view and from what Cunningham has done for the club for the last 17 years well then you would say St Helens. From Cunningham's point of view there is no better way to end your career - playing your nearest and biggest rival.