Wigan Warriors and Leigh Centurions will face off competitively for the first time since 2013 in the Battle of the Borough tomorrow night.
Wigan have enjoyed a fine start to the 2016 campaign by beating Salford Red Devils and Widnes Vikings in their first two Super League fixtures. Shaun Wane’s side were also crowned World Club Champions after easing past National Rugby League premiers Cronulla Sharks 22-6 two weeks ago.
Meanwhile, Leigh have had an average start to life in Super League after being promoted from the Championship last term. Neil Jukes’ outfit have endured defeats against Castleford Tigers and Leeds Rhinos but beat St Helens in their last game.
The Warriors are the clear favourites for this one but Wigan Evening Post and Wigan Observer sports editor Phil Wilkinson claims Leigh having nothing to lose.
“I know Leigh are newcomers to Super League but they have plenty of players with a lot of experience and ability,” Wilkinson said.
“This is the first league derby since 2005 and for most of these players it’s the first of these derbies although the likes of Danny Tickle and Harrison Hansen did feature for Wigan the last time they met.
“Leigh have certainly enjoyed their friendly wins over the years and there’s no doubt this game will mean a lot to them.”
The Centurions have only been in Super League once before, winning just three out of a possible 31 games.
Wigan on the other hand have played 619 matches, winning the Grand Final, Challenge Cup and League Leaders’ Shield along the way.
Despite the Warriors having more practice Wilkinson believes Leigh will stick to their own playing style at the DW Stadium tomorrow night against the World Club champions.
He added: “I think Leigh will stick to an expansive style but they may rein in some of the adventurous play being the away team.
“If they go two scores behind thoughts may switch to damage limitation but it’s hard to say given the lack of previous between the pair.”
Wilkinson also admitted he was excited to potentially seeing Wigan’s Liam Marshall feature for the first time.
“I am looking forward to seeing Liam Marshall possibly make his debut on Friday,” he said.
“He [Liam Marshall] has got a unique style about him, can score some terrific tries and make no mistake is snapping at the heels of Joe Burgess and Lewis Tierney.”
Wigan will be without centre Oliver Gildart and back rower John Bateman, who both have shoulder injuries.
Half-back Jake Shorrocks is also ruled out, while front rower Joe Bretherton and centre Liam Forsyth come into the 19-man squad.
Utility back Curtis Naughton is in line to make his debut for Leigh after joining on a season-long loan from Hull FC.
Even though Wigan head coach Shaun Wane has three key players on the sidelines, Wilkinson still thinks the Warriors will claim the two points
“Wigan have scored an average of 25 points in their three games, one of which was against NRL champions Cronulla,” he said.
“Leigh have scored tries against Leeds and St Helens and even had a purple patch in the opening day heavy loss at Castleford [Tigers] so I’m going for a 36-14 type of score.”
Wigan: Burgess, Bretherton, Clubb, Escare, Farrell, Flower, Forsyth, Gelling, Isa, Leuluai, Nuuausala, O’Loughlin, Powell, Sutton, Tautai, Tierney, J Tomkins and Williams.
Leigh: Brown, Crooks, Tonga, Dawson, Drinkwater, Hock, Higham, Weston, Hansen, Pelissier, Tickle, Vea, Hampshire, Reynolds, Green, Hopkins, Acton, Burr and Naughton.