Taming Tomkins is key for Rhinos
Wigan Warriors will go into their Stobart Super League clash with Leeds tomorrow with more than half their forwards missing but Rhinos coach Brian McDermott knows his side will still have their work cut out to stop their biggest threat.
With Gareth Hock, Lee Mossop and Chris Tuson all suspended and Paul Prescott and Ben Flower injured, the Warriors will field a depleted and inexperienced pack, yet, in England full-back Sam Tomkins, they have a man capable of winning any match single-handedly.
Tomkins, who has been in irrepressible form this year, is the player opposition fans love to hate - he was even roundly booed playing for England at Headingley last season - but McDermott cannot help but admire him.
“He is a world-class player and someone I think is an incredible talent,” McDermott said.
“He has lit up Super League in recent years and while we will be trying to make him look bad on Friday night, he is someone I like.
“He is a tough fella who seems to be dealing with the pressures of being the figurehead for his team well.”
Wigan will have the chance to consolidate their place at the top of Super League if they can extend their 10-match winning run.
They are looking to complete the double over the Rhinos following a 20-6 victory at the DW Stadium in February, and move 10 points clear of the defending champions, who could find themselves out of the top eight if results go against them this weekend.
However, Wigan coach Shaun Wane, who had a short spell as a player at Leeds in the nineties, is a big admirer of the Rhinos and especially experienced half-backs Kevin Sinfield and Danny McGuire, who is fresh from his five-try feat against Bradford Bulls last Sunday.
“They’re still a good team,” Wane said. “They’ve two fantastic halves, I’m big fan of Kevin Sinfield.
“They’re a quality team and certainly better than where they’re placed in the competition.
“I like going to Headingley. I was there as a player and it’s a good place to be. I like Brian McDermott, he’s a quality coach. All round it’s a good club.”
Wane has named youngsters Rhodri Lloyd, Jack Hughes, Tom Spencer, Logan Tomkins, Dom Crosby and Jack Murphy in his 19-man squad while McDermott has the luxury of being able to recall England prop Darrell Griffin.
Carl Ablett, who today signed a new contract taking him to the end of 2016, is set to switch from the second row to centre to cover for the injured Kallum Watkins.
“If Brian McDermott wants me to play centre, I am happy to do that and hopefully we can get the win that we want,” said Ablett.
“We have got a big challenge on our hands. Wigan are in great form at present and we will need to be at our best to compete with them.”
A Wigan defeat would enable Catalan Dragons to draw level with them as long as they overcome Salford City Reds at Barton tomorrow.
The Dragons have maintained their bid for a maiden Grand Final appearance with just one defeat in their last seven matches but the Reds will go into the game with renewed confidence after a 38-34 win over previous leaders Huddersfield Giants.
“Obviously we’ll take some confidence out of it and we’ll need to because they’re a pretty good side,” Veivers said.
“They’ve plenty of strike and Leon Pryce and Scott Dureau gives them lots of options around the halves.”
The Catalans are boosted by the return of French international forwards David Ferriol and Gregory Mounis but Veivers says he has a secret plan to deal with their massive pack.
“They’ve a very big pack and every team that plays them knows they’ve been in a match,” he said.
“We’ve a small pack and we need to address how we handle them and how we play against them.”