Wane hoping for Good Friday win
Wigan Warriors coach Shaun Wane has turned to mind games as the reigning First Utility Super League champions seek to end the 100 per cent record of arch rivals St Helens in the eagerly-anticipated Good Friday derby.
Wane is taking great delight in casting his side in the role of rank underdogs against their table-topping neighbours, who will have home advantage in front of a capacity 18,000 crowd at Langtree Park.
"There is no doubt we're under the pump this week," Wane said. "They're telling everybody that they've the best backline in the competition and they're unbeaten.
"It doesn't seem like there's any point in us turning up but we'll be having a dig and trying to shock them."
Although the Warriors have put together a four-match winning run to climb to fourth in the table, Wane admits they have yet to rediscover their title-winning form.
"We're finding ways to win games," he said. "We're not at our best yet. We need to find some consistent form and hopefully that will be on Friday against Saints."
Winger Adam Swift will be missing from St Helens' exciting backline but Lance Hohaia returns to partner Luke Walsh at half-back.
Coach Nathan Brown has consistently played down his team's title prospects and remains full of admiration for the champions.
"They're a wonderful team, Wigan," Brown said. "Waney has replaced his personnel brilliantly.
"They are one of the teams to beat, there is no doubt about that. Wigan have got a lot of faith in the structures that have enabled them to win a lot of trophies and I'm sure physically they'll be at the party.
"They do that part of the game well. Easter Friday is always an exciting contest and hopefully we can do our bit to make it exciting as well."
Elsewhere, Warrington Wolves seek to kick-start their flagging league campaign against Widnes Vikings while Huddersfield Giants and Wakefield Trinity Wildcats will be aiming to halt four-match losing runs when they take on Salford Red Devils and Castleford Tigers respectively.
The Wolves were the pre-season title favourites but have won just one of their last three matches and have lost three key forwards in Ben Westwood, Paul Wood and Simon Grix to long-term injury but coach Tony Smith insists there is no panic at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.
"We're trying hard at the moment," Smith said. "We're a different team to last year but I am sure we will get a run of form and we will build it up.
"I'm not concerned. You care about results but it's a bit disrespectful to think it's going to be easy each and every week and that your'e going to do what you've done before.
"It's about respecting your opponents and I think there's a lot of teams who have improved in the last year or two from where they were.
"It's a case of not looking back to what's happened in the past, it's about what's happening in the present."
Widnes, who did the double over the Wolves in 2013, are currently two places above their neighbours in the table and coach Denis Betts is relishing the opportunity to add to their misery.
"I think these kinds of matches give the fans the chance to feel a great sense of pride in the team," Betts said. "The result last year really showed our intentions as a club."
Salford play their first home game under new coach Iestyn Harris when Huddersfield visit Barton tomorrow evening, hoping to avoid a repeat of last year's surprise defeat there.
Last year's table-toppers are out of the top eight after winning just two of their opening eight matches and centre Joe Wardle admits the players are hurting.
"We're having a bad run at the minute and we're feeling a little disappointed with ourselves with the way we're playing," Wardle said.
"Obviously we want to go out there and put things right and we've got another good chance to do that this week against Salford."
Castleford must bounce back from their heart-breaking home defeat by St Helens without full-back Luke Dorn, who will miss the Easter programme with a hamstring injury.
"He's been playing some outstanding rugby league so he'll be a big miss for us," said Tigers coach Daryl Powell. "But you have squad depth for a reason so I'm confident we can manage it pretty well."