Thursday night sees a dress rehearsal of the Challenge Cup Final, with both sides not at full strength, perhaps wanting to keep their cards close to their chest.
The two sides have made strong starts to the season and with their being a chance for Wigan to go top of the pile, even for a short while, there will be motivation enough.
Huddersfield’s recent form has not been quite what they kicked off the season with, and so a chance to climb into a more comfortable play-off spot will be in the minds of the home side.
Wigan have left out some big names for the clash, including last Saturday’s hero Liam Marshall. Their star of the season, Jai Field, is also rested alongside John Bateman, Morgan Smithies and Liam Byrne. They make way for some very young replacements, including two potential debutants in Logan Astley and Jack Bibby. James McDonnell, Umyla Hanley, Matty Nicholson are the other three players brought in to the 21-man squad, and will themselves be hoping for some game time. Willie Isa also returns to the squad after a late omission last week.
For Huddersfield, there are also some big misses. Josh Jones will miss the game due to suspension, as well as Chris Hill, Luke Yates, Chris McQueen and Jermaine McGilvary who are all rested.
Match Preview – Key Battles:
Harry Smith vs Theo Fages: Smith played a huge role in Wigan’s surprise victory over arch rivals St Helens to put them through to the Challenge Cup Final. The 22-year-old has found his way into the starting lineup only through injuries in the squad, but week by week is starting to look in more control of his side. He will need to maintain his current form if he is to compete with the experienced Fages, who looks strong since returning from injury. With lots of forwards missing for Huddersfield, Theo fages will have to work hard in order to guide his team to victory, limiting mistakes and ending sets well to avoid being blown away by the in-form Warriors.
Brad O’Neill vs Danny Levi: Like Harry Smith, O’Neill held his own up against league leaders Saints on Saturday, up against one of the greatest Super League has seen in James Roby. He will now have another difficult task on his hands, up against the pace and energy of Dany Levi, who will hope to win the ruck speed battle against the young teenager. Both players will want to show their strength with both sides fully aware that this is a warm up for the much bigger occasion at the end of the month.
Where the game will be won and lost:
With the absences from both squads, it’s clear that each team has an eye on the Challenge Cup Final, but it will be the team that best understands that there are still vital points on the line, that will get the job done. Huddersfield have won most of their games this year by beating teams through the middle, yet are without some key experience and talent in the forwards. Likewise, Wigan are without their greatest strength in the pace of Jai Field and Liam Marshall. Therefore, it will be the team that can learn to adapt to the changes in their side that will progress in the race to the play-offs.
Score Prediction: Huddersfield Giants 18-22 Wigan Warriors