Round 26 -
Friday Game Preview: Wigan wary of Rhinos backlash

Leeds have the chance to atone for their Challenge Cup final disappointment by reclaiming top spot in Super League when they take on Wigan at the JJB Stadium.

Wigan coach Ian Millward is wary of the backlash as the Rhinos look to bounce back from their dramatic defeat by Hull in Cardiff.

?History shows it?s not a good time to play the losing team,? he said. ?They usually come out and do well the week after because they want to get back on the horse and they don?t knock themselves around as much after the game.

?Having said that, Leeds have had two really tough games which will have taken a lot out of them.

?We?ve just got to worry about what we?re doing. We?ve won our last three in a row and, if we can play like we did in our last three games, I think we?re in with a real chance of winning.

?We?ve had a week off and we look really sharp and enthusiastic in training. We?re raring to go.?

Wigan still need the points to push for the one remaining play-off vacancy - they are locked in a three-way battle with London Broncos and Huddersfield for sixth spot - and they will also have a major say in the destination of the League leaders? trophy since they take on current leaders St Helens next Friday.

The irony is not lost on Millward as he is presented with an opportunity to boost the title prospects of the club that sacked him four months ago.

?I?ll have to see my lawyer to see where I stand with my bonus at the end of the year,? he quipped. ?It?s obviously a double-edged sword.

?But my first priority is to make sure we win to get us a step closer to the play-offs.?

It is more than four years since Leeds last lost three successive matches but back-to-back defeats by Bradford and Hull have created the nearest thing to a crisis since Tony Smith took over the coaching reins.

Another defeat would virtually hand St Helens the leaders? trophy but Smith is backing his team to repeat their victory at the JJB Stadium earlier this season.

?The players are fully committed to getting the right performance on Friday night,? said Smith. ?We know the areas where we were not up to our usual standard on Saturday and we will be looking to put them right.

?The players are keen to get out there and play again this week and get back to action in Super League.?

Wigan have lost prop Jerry Seuseu for the season with a knee injury but have Frenchman Jerome Guisset back after a three-match absence.

Winger Brian Carney is expected to shake off a hamstring strain but hooker Terry Newton (hip) is rated 50-50.

Leeds have lost centre Keith Senior and second rower Chris McKenna (both ankle) from their cup final team so Nick Scruton and Lee Smith get their chance.

Barrie McDermott is also recalled against his former club for what will be his 200th appearance in the Rhinos? starting line-up.

Wigan Warriors v Leeds Rhinos, JJB Stadium, Friday September 2 2005

Wigan 18-man: Dallas, Aspinwall, Vaealiki, Carney, Orr, Moran, Guisset, Newton, Tickle, Brown, Sculthorpe, Wild, Hansen, Allen, Beswick, Coyle, Hargreaves, Tomkins.

Leeds 18-man: Mathers, Calderwood, Walker, Bai, McGuire, Burrow, Bailey, Diskin, McDermott, Lauitiiti, Sinfield, Dunemann, Ward, Poching, Jones-Buchanan, Ellis, Scruton, Smith.

Referee: R Laughton

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