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Preview: Bradford v Wigan (Round 7)
Wigan will have two new faces in their team as they look to stop the rot against engage Super League champions Bradford at Odsal on Friday.
Coach Ian Millward gives a debut to Salford second rower Tim Jonkers and will also include latest capture Oliver Wilkes once the paperwork goes through.
Wigan have agreed a fee with Whitehaven for the former Sheffield Eagles, Huddersfield and Leigh forward who was in Leigh?s National League Grand Final-winning team of 2004 and made 14 appearances for them in Super League last season.
Whitehaven rejected Wigan?s initial move for the 25-year-old Wilkes but relented when their offer was improved to what they say was a ?considerable five-figure sum?.
Spokesman John Cox said: ?Oliver will be sorely missed but Whitehaven have strength in depth and the coach will fill the gap.?
With four first-choice regulars injured, the newcomers go straight in at the deep end, trying to lift a Wigan side that has won just one of their opening six games, the club?s worst start to a season since 1980, when they suffered the ignominy of relegation.
The Warriors are seeking to avoid losing four successive league matches for the first time since 1985, when they recovered to finish third and win the Challenge Cup at Wembley.
Millward will hope that is a lucky omen but, if they lose by 11 points or more, they will sink to the foot of the table for what is believed to be the first time in the club?s history.
Bulls boss Brian Noble is putting his side on their guard, insisting: ?Wigan will improve, make no mistake about that. We have to make sure that it isn?t this week.
?They are coming here looking to turn their form and their season round and we know we will be in for a tough game. What has happened already this season will have no bearing on this game.
?We are coming up against a Wigan side for whom this is a must-win game. They need to turn their season around and they would love to do it here.
?I am not too concerned with their injuries because they have still got some very high-quality players out there.?
Millward remains upbeat despite pressure clearly mounting on his injury-hit team.
?We?re going there to win, not to make up the numbers,? he said.
?We?re not just thinking about putting in a good performance. We?ll be disappointed if we lose the game. We?ll be in there fighting. We?re under-strength but not under-motivated.
?The players are disappointed and obviously confidence is down. But sport goes in cycles and we?ve got to make sure we learn from it. I?m sure, if we handle it the right way, we?ll be better for it.
?It sounds like a lot of doom and gloom but we?ve left the training paddock with a plan to win at Bradford and that?s what we intend to do.?
Bradford have suffered a major injury blow of their own, with Great Britain international Paul Deacon having undergone facial surgery for the second time in three months.
Deacon had to have major surgery and plates inserted in his face in December after it was shattered by a tackle from New Zealand centre Nigel Vagana but this time he has undergone a minor operation.
?The specialists just think there is some infection in there and that?s why it?s been swelling up like it has,? said Noble.
?They reckon one of the metal plates itself got infected but they have had a look, cleaned things up and now put him on some antibiotics.?
Stanley Gene is likely to partner skipper Iestyn Harris, who has recovered from an arm injury that curtailed his involvement in last week?s defeat at leaders St Helens.
Bradford 18-man squad: Hape, St Hilaire, Vagana, Fielden, I. Harris, B. Harris, Watene, Lynch, Bai, Gene, Pryce, Ferres, Vainikolo, Henderson, Langley, McKenna, Withers, Cook.
Wigan 18-man squad: Ashton, Calderwood, Vaealiki, Richards, Dallas, Orr, Moran, Jonkers, Higham, Hargreaves, Tickle, Tomkins, O'Loughlin, Fletcher, Seu Seu, Godwin, Prescott, Wilkes.
Ref R Laughton