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Starting XVII: Is this how Wigan Warriors will line up in 2022?

After the huge success of the Shaun Wane era at Wigan, the Warriors are still searching for the correct formula to return to winning ways as they enter their fourth season since their last major final triumph.

Adrian Lam’s tenure was a case of what might have been especially looking back on 2020. However, a lukewarm campaign last year has seen the club turn to Matty Peet as he builds a new look Wigan side with a number of interesting signings. But just how will this new look side set up?

Fullback: Bevan French

It may be a few weeks into the season until we see Bevan French return to Super League as he sadly mourns his mother who passed away in January. However, the livewire fullback was the crux of Wigan’s success in 2020 and getting him firing again in 2022 could see Wigan make a serious push for silverware this year. However, until his return it’s likely Zak Hardaker will take on the fullback role as he did at the start of last season.

Wingers: Jake Bibby and Liam Marshall

After two fantastic campaigns in a Wigan shirt, Jake Bibby has quite rightly been promoted to the number two jersey this year. Along with French, Bibby could be considered Wigan’s biggest attacking threat and on the right wing next year could cross of a number of tries. That said, the shake-up caused by French’s absence could see him start the year at centre with new recruit Abbas Miski on the wing. It’ll be interesting to see if Miski can push for a permanent starting spot but with Bibby and of course the impressive Liam Marshall in his way it’ll be tough. Marshall is no stranger to a spectacular try and if he can stay fit in 2022, he could be one of the league’s best wingers.

Centres: Zak Hardaker and Iain Thornley

It seems these days Zak Hardaker is considered more of a centre than a fullback despite winning the Man of Steel as a fullback in 2015. Comfortable in the role both in attack and defence expect another solid season from him as he pushes for a place in Shaun Wane’s England squad. Joining him is Iain Thornley. Some might have scoffed at his return but Thornley was a key member of Wigan’s double winning side of 2013 even scoring in their Wembley win. A trustworthy player, he could help the Cherry and Whites return to glory nine years on from that double success.

Halfbacks: Cade Cust and Thomas Leuluai

The arrival of Cade Cust has Wigan fans excited and he was immediately pencilled in as one of the favourites for the Man of Steel by bookmakers. With something to prove having been considered a ‘14’ rather than a starting 6 or 7 in Australia, he could spark an exciting Wigan attack. The bigger question is who will line-up alongside him. The Warriors have the likes of Jai Field and Harry Smith to choose from but based on squad numbers Thomas Leuluai will again start the season as Wigan’s first choice scrumhalf with his experience set to be key in helping Cust settle.

Props: Brad Singleton and Patrick Mago

A two-time Grand Final winner, Brad Singleton is a top notch prop and with the reinforcements brought in down the middle this year he could certainly kick on in a Wigan shirt in 2022. He’ll be joined in the front row by Patrick Mago who has been awarded the number 10 shirt. In his peak years at the age of 27 and with NRL experience under his belt, Mago could catch the eye.

Hooker: Sam Powell

Sam Powell has grown into Wigan’s go to number nine over the last few years. A trustworthy player with a wide skillset which in some ways makes him more than the traditional hooker, he’ll link nicely with the likes of Cust next season as the Warriors hope to build a formidable spine.

Second-Rowers: Liam Farrell and John Bateman

Few teams have two backrowers as good as England internationals Liam Farrell and John Bateman. Farrell has enjoyed a renaissance over the last couple of years and has quite rightly been included in the last three Dream Teams. Meanwhile, Bateman may not have hit the form expected of him in 2021 but he still captained his country and is still one of the best forwards in the world especially based on his performances down under. The duo will start the year as Wigan’s starting second-rowers but with the likes of Willie Isa and Kai Pearce-Paul breathing down their necks, they’ll need consistent performances to maintain their spots.

Loose-Forward: Morgan Smithies

Another player capable of playing in the backrow, Morgan Smithies plays his best rugby down the middle where his tenacity can be used to full effect. A young player with still plenty of room to develop, expect him to become one of the league’s best loose-forwards over the next few years especially with Sean O’Loughlin as part of the coaching staff.

Substitutes: Willie Isa, Kaide Ellis, Harry Smith, Oliver Partington

The Warriors have a lot of players to choose from where the bench is concerned with Pearce-Paul, Ramon Silva, Joe Shorrocks, James McDonnell, Liam Byrne and Ethan Havard unlucky to miss out. Ultimately, Willie Isa is an experienced head whose explosivity will be a useful asset off the bench. Kaide Ellis brings NRL pedigree and he and Oliver Partington can provide cover for 13 as well as the two props. Completing the bench is Harry Smith who is a player with huge potential. With a wide skillset, he could provide Powell with a breather especially with Leuluai’s ability to move to hooker. He or the exciting Jai Field could be quite the asset off the bench especially after a magnificent showing against Warrington last night.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Rommel Saint

    January 30, 2022 at 9:15 am

    That front line will not beat Saints

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