Warrington vs Wigan: Super League head-to-heads
By Tom Mordey
Last Updated: 15/03/19 7:14pm
We look at three key head-to-heads before Warrington host Wigan in Super League this Friday, live on Sky Sports Arena.
It's been a difficult start for Adrian Lam as Wigan coach. Four defeats from five leaves his side languishing at the wrong end of the table.
Will they be able to find a solution against Warrington on Friday night? Here's three head-to-heads which might decide it...
Stefan Ratchford vs Zak Hardaker
It's been another strong start to the season for Stefan Ratchford. He really made his mark under Steve Price last season and the form has continued so far in 2019. He provides an all-round game from full-back.
Ratchford can score tries - two so far - provide assists as an extra playmaker and take the ball up from the back - 428 metres from his 62 carries so far. He'll want to make an impression ahead of the Great Britain tour, with Ratchford on the fringes of international call-ups, featuring off the bench in the third test against New Zealand last autumn.
But the full-back has added a new string to his bow in 2019. He's kicking goals full time for the Wolves this year, having done the job temporarily previously. And Ratchford is joint-top of the goals chart in Super League, level with Danny Brough. Another skill for a talented player.
Zak Hardaker attracted significant attention before the season kicked off as he returned to Rugby League following off-field issues. We've not seen the Man of Steel version of Hardaker yet, but that's to be expected after a long absence.
His three try assists is the joint best in a Warriors shirt, while his kick returns provide significant yardage as ever. Hardaker has the most metres of any Wigan player: 606m from his 78 carries, at an average gain of 7.77m per drive - the third best in the squad. He's made the joint-most clean breaks and the most tackle busts with 32.
And the full-back is also Wigan's goal kicker, slotting 13 from 17 so far. Dependable under the high ball, Hardaker is usually a safe bet in defence too. He'll be key to Wigan turning round their form.
Blake Austin vs George Williams
There was plenty of hype around Blake Austin before Super League kicked off. And there's certainly been flashes of brilliance so far. Austin has three try assists for this season, although that's two behind half-back partner Dec Patton.
He showed that creativity in the away win at Huddersfield, playing a big part in most of his side's tries, while also scoring himself. Austin also crossed in the season opener against Leeds, showing some classy touches by linking with Toby King to cross.
He's had to work quickly to establish a partnership with Patton after Kevin Brown's long-term injury. They've shared the attacking kicks so far, 24 from Patton and 21 from Austin, and the signs are there that it's a combination that could work. Will it lead to a trophy?
It's been a difficult start to 2019 for George Williams. It looks like he'll be playing his rugby in the NRL next season, a move that's looked on the cards for a while despite him signing a marquee deal until 2021 with the Warriors. Reports suggest Canberra have agreed a deal, despite the club denying it.
Adrian Lam admits the issue has had an adverse impact on the half-back's form and also the whole team with their main creative output struggling to fire. Williams was particularly poor in the defeat to London and struggled again against Huddersfield, one missed tackle in particular doing the rounds on social media.
Wigan now need to decide if the half-back's head is in the right place. But the club will hope he can end his Wigan career in style, much like Sam Tomkins and John Bateman last season.
Ben Currie vs Willie Isa
What a delight it was to see Ben Currie back in action for Warrington. He wasn't named in the 19-man squad for the Castleford game, but played anyway following Danny Walker's withdrawal in a surprise return from his knee ligament injury - his second in as many years.
Currie went the 80 minutes as well in the win over Castleford. Now he'll hope to work towards the level he'd reached before injury.
The 24-year-old provides a serious threat on the left edge. He was the club's joint-top try scorer in 2016, bagging 17 along with Ryan Atkins. Hopefully one of Super League's brightest stars can start to burn brightly again.
There's a big job on in Wigan's pack at the moment. Adrian Lam is already struggling with injuries, especially in the back-row. Liam Farrell is missing with a torn pectoral muscle, while Joe Greenwood missed the Huddersfield defeat with concussion. That left Willie Isa in the back-row with 21-year-old Liam Paisley.
As one of the senior forwards, Wigan need Isa to step up. He's the club's third top tackler so far this season with 128, only behind Sam Powell and Sean O'Loughlin.
Isa always works hard in defence, he came second in the tackle count last season, top in 2017 and second in 2016. Wigan need more efforts like that, leading from the front as they aim to see off Warrington on Friday night.