In the world of rugby league, it doesn’t get much bigger than Wigan Warriors against St Helens, and the old rivals are again primed for battle in the Super League Grand Final on Friday night.
Saints’ James Graham and Wigan’s Sean O’Loughlin are set to play their final games before retirement, but it might well be the latter who is celebrating come the final whistle.
Warriors Boosted by Powell Return
Wigan had to do without star hooker Sam Powell for their 29-2 win over Hull FC in the playoff semi-finals, after he was absent due to personal reasons.
Warriors head coach Adrian Lam, who led his side to the League Leaders’ Shield this season, has said he has no qualms bringing Powell straight back into the run-on side to face the Saints, who picked up a 48-2 win over Catalans Dragons in their semi-final.
That is in spite of Jackson Hastings enjoying an impressive performance in the dummy-half role against the Black & Whites, so it’s a big call for Lam to recall Powell to the fold against a strong side like Saints.
Wigan will have Wales international Ben Flower out on the sidelines after he picked up a leg injury in the encounter against the Airlie Birds.
His team-mates will also want to get the win for the veteran prop, with Flower out of contract this winter after a failed move to Toronto.
Wigan With the Form
The Warriors have managed to find form when it matters, with Wigan winning all of their last five Super League games following their Challenge Cup semi-final defeat to Leeds Rhinos in October.
Since the cup defeat, they have overcome Warrington, Salford, St Helens, Huddersfield and Hull FC on their way to the final.
That 18-6 win over Saints at the end of October will give the Warriors the confidence they can do it again this week, with Wigan at
20/27 to secure the win in 80 minutes.
O’Loughlin to Go Out on a High
Wigan have a rich history of great captains, with O’Loughlin spoken in the same breath as the likes of Shaun Edwards and Andy Farrell.
The loose forward has enjoyed a stellar career with his hometown club and they will be determined to send him out in style.
These emotional farewells have served teams well in Grand Finals of the past, with Leeds especially thriving in their success of 2015 and 2017 when veterans were hanging up their boots.
There looks to be very little between these two teams, with Wigan at
20/23 with a -1.5 FT handicap. It might well be a cagey low-scoring affair on Humberside, and
4/5 is available for there to be under 34.5 points scored in the match.
While Graham has been an excellent servant during his time with Saints, the form and the fresh returning players look set to give O’Loughlin’s Wigan the edge at the KCOM Stadium on Friday night.
*All odds correct at time of writing