Shaun Wane takes his Wigan side across the Pennines to Leeds for live Sky Friday night Rugby.
These two sides have won 6 of the last 7 Grand Finals between them and the hosts look to be back on track after a nightmare 2016 as they prepare to take on the champions .
Wigan look to be getting over their injury nightmare with Gildart, Farrell and Sutton back for this one whilst Delaney comes back in for the Rhinos.
The Castleford debacle is the only time the Rhinos have lost in the last 6, with their 3 recent wins over Huddersfield, Wakefield and Catalans all by big margins.
Whilst I’m not one to put too much emphasis on injuries, the Wigan absentee list is like a who’s who, with Bateman, O’loughlin, Tomkins, Burgess and Mcillorum notable names still out.
Having said this they still managed to put out a respectable side and they gave Hull a real scare in the second half last week.
The loss to FC was Wigan’s first of the season and with the World Club Challenge trophy showing pride of place at the DW Stadium, I’m sure Wane would have settled for that at this stage .
Wigan have a poor recent record at Headingley, they even managed to be one of the few teams to lose there last year, not winning since 2012.
Super League sponsors Betfred have the Rhinos marginal 8/11 favourites to win this one and given their 100 percent home record I think they could just justify that.
Despite getting 3 players back, Wigan are still missing some real talent and have conceded some soft tries in the last couple of weeks with inexperienced backs .
The Warriors are unbeaten away from home but the wins were when the injury list was manageable and I expect the experienced players in the Leeds ranks to take full advantage of taking on the rookies in Cherry and White, just like Albert Kelly did last week.
Leeds are trying to turn Headingley into a fortress, they were fortunate to beat Salford near the start of the season but no shame in that given the form of the Red Devils.
I’d want more than 6/5 for a Wigan side that drew with Huddersfield, in my opinion the worst team in the league, a fortnight ago and for all the comeback against Hull was admirable, FC were guilty of taking their foot off the gas and they lost Houghton during the game.
Wigan will have near a full strength squad by the time they take on Saints on Good Friday and could be the team to follow in the second half of the season, but until then they could struggle.
Leeds concede a 2-point start on the handicap, but in a fixture that is usually tight it’s surely safer to take the slightly shorter match win odds.
Conversely Wigan backers may be better taking the 2-point start on the handicap as a pose to the 6/5 match win odds.
There are plenty of alternative handicaps available at Betfred, you can get 2/1 for the Rhinos to win by more than 10 points. I think the hosts can win this by 6-10 points.
Hall and Briscoe head first try lists at 7/1, and you have to favour the experienced Hall playing against a rookie whilst Tierney and Burgess are out for the Warriors.
As for the visitors, Gildart is shortest price at 8/1 but fit again Liam Farrell looks great value at 14/1.
Ben Flower has recovered from his knock against Hull and looks good anytime try value at 11/2.
Finally the man of the match, Watkins could catch the eye of the Sky team as he plays his 200th game and at 20/1, I just prefer him over 8/1 in-form Matt Purcell.
George Williams heads the market at 7/1, he’s been the best player in the league so far this season for me and is surely the man that could win it for the visitors. I just prefer him to 12/1 Escare who has been a revelation so far this year.
In tonight’s other game Castleford concede a 20-point start on the handicap for the visit of Huddersfield.
The Giants have to make do without Danny Brough and could be lambs to the slaughter at the Jungle, the draw at Wigan 2 weeks ago is sandwiched between 3 heavy defeats for Huddersfield and whilst I don’t like big handicaps you have to think that Castleford could win this by more than 20 points.
It’s probably better to go high on total points instead of the handicap though as the Tigers are prone to conceding points.
Castleford average over 16 points against at home this season and anything close to that would see the game in for over 50 points if the Tigers cover the handicap.
The visitors are written off as 13/2 no hopers by the bookies and I’m struggling to argue a case that they can win here.
Extra game on Sky tomorrow as Wakefield travel to Perpignan, we’ll have a review on that game.
As always, please gamble responsibly .