Ahead of Friday's #NRL game between Penrith Panthers and Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, writer Rob C...
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Wigan Warriors, who are just four points away from the relegation zone, aim to halt their slide at the expense of engage Super League leaders Leeds at Headingley on Saturday.
It is a daunting task facing the Warriors, who suffered a record 38-14 home defeat by the champions in April, and new coach Ian Millward as he approaches the anniversary of the 70-0 thrashing handed out to his St Helens outfit at Headingley last July.
With just one win from their last five matches, Wigan are becoming desperate for points to keep alive their play-off hopes but Millward is keen not to put more pressure on his squad.
?All I?m looking for at the moment is improvement,? he said. ?In my three games so far, we?ve improved every week. It?s a fine line at the moment between winning and losing but, if we keep working hard, we?ll get there.
?The best we can hope for are firstly no more injuries; secondly to keep improving because there are a lot of young inexperienced guys who are going to have to adjust to the way I want to play long term and thirdly to turn the opportunities we?re creating in games into tries.
?I?d love to make the six but we need to get all those things right first. I?m not down and I?m not putting any pressure on the players. Long term, I?m pretty confident it will happen. And I wouldn?t write us off for this week?s game.?
It is a sign of the upheaval at the JJB Stadium this year that Wigan return to Headingley without 11 members of the team that lost there in the play-offs last October whereas Leeds, who are unchanged for the third successive match, field all but two of the players on duty that day.
Winger Brett Dallas and half-back Danny Orr have joined the Warriors? injury list but Rhinos coach Tony Smith insists they remain a potent threat.
?They have had to do it tough this season with injuries and the loss of senior players from the squad but they remain a massive threat for every team in Super League,? he said.
?They pushed Hull all the way last week and they face a big game next week against St Helens in the Cup that they will be anxious to go into in good form.
?We won at the JJB Stadium earlier in the season but the game was a real arm wrestle before we were able to pull clear in the end. They have quality players throughout the side and in Danny Tickle they have a player who is in a rich vein of form at the moment.?
The recovery of Great Britain hooker Matt Diskin, who made his comeback from a knee re-construction in an academy match on Thursday night, means that Leeds are the only team in Super League entirely free of injuries.
But the 23-year-old Diskin, who suffered crucial ligament damage on his Great Britain debut last November, will not be rushed back into Super League action.
?We were really pleased to see Matt come through his comeback game okay,? said Smith.
?He was keen to get that first game under his belt and he will have a couple of run-outs in the senior academy to get his fitness back before he is available for selection.
?We will make sure that he is 100% before he is even declared for selection.?
Leeds Rhinos v Wigan Warriors, Headingley, Saturday June 18 2005
Leeds 18-man squad: Mathers, Calderwood, Walker, Senior, Bai, McGuire, Burrow, Bailey, McDermott, Lauitiiti, McKenna, Sinfield, Dunemann, Ward, Poching, Jones-Buchanan, Ellis, Scruton.
Wigan 18-man squad: Moran, Carney, Aspinwall, Wild, Melling, Brown, Coyle, Seu Seu, Newton, Guisset, Hansen, Tickle, Botham, Sculthorpe, Godwin, Hargreaves, Tomkins, Allen.
Referee: I Smith