After a disappointing season in 2017, Shaun Wane has made no bones that his Wigan team need to get their act together in 2018 in order to reach the end of season play offs – something they failed to do last season.
This off season, the Cherry and Whites squad numbers revealed a possible tactical change with Thomas Leuluai now donning the number 9 shirt – a role he is familiar with from his time wearing the New Zealand shirt – and Sam Powell wearing number 7. Indeed, Wigan’s thirteen for their opening fixture against Salford saw them line up as expected with former England full back Sam Tomkins taking up his familiar role with Powell partnering George Williams in the halves with Leuluai at 9. That left Frenchman Morgan Escare out of the starting team but, interestingly, Wane named the former Catalans Dragons star on the bench and his involvement showed a clear flexibility from the Cherry and Whites – something which may well be a feature of their play this season.
When he came onto the pitch, he went to full back with Tomkins switching into the halves to partner Williams and Powell replaced Leuluai at 9 with the Kiwi departing the pitch and, despite these mid game alterations, the team’s attacking threat wasn’t diminished much to the joy of coach Wane who said that “I liked how the spine worked, we had plenty of options.” He went on to further highlight that, despite the many changes throughout the match regarding his ball playing pivots, the Cherry and Whites looked comfortable whoever was in there.
While they weren’t playing one of the perceived title contenders in their opening fixture, the team definitely were full of energy and desire. Wane himself, however, made plain that his team will have to be better for Saturday’s match Down Under, explaining that Wigan “will need to be better to beat Hull.”