Farrell to fill Hansen's boots for Wigan

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The Independent Online

The leadership of Super League has proved a slippery baton to hold on to this season. By contrast with last year, when Wigan virtually led from start to finish, it has been a case of "after you, Claude" at the top of the table.

Wigan, Warrington, Castleford, St Helens and Huddersfield have all had their turn; so have Harlequins, though it seems a long time ago now.

What this surprising share-out could indicate is that there is no outstanding team. All the temporary leaders have suffered shock defeats, sometimes by startling margins.

That is why Wigan will be wary of today's trip to Crusaders. The Welsh side may have been emphatically beaten at Leeds last time out but they recently thrashed the league leaders, Huddersfield, by an astonishing 32-6.

For a potentially tricky assignment, Wigan are without one of the unsung hard-workers of their pack in Harrison Hansen, sidelined for at least a month.

Liam Farrell, who scored the memorable last-minute winner against St Helens on Good Friday, is his likely replacement. The Australian utility back Amos Roberts, who cannot force his way into the team, has been assured by Wigan's coach Michael Maguire that he still has a future at the club.

Warrington were briefly looking unbeatable before they crashed to two defeats, but they can still finish the weekend strongly placed if they can beat the Bradford Bulls at Odsal today.

Both clubs are adjusting to playing without a first-choice half-back for the immediate future, with the Wolves' Richie Myler and the Bulls' Brett Kearney both sidelined with injuries.

Neither Wakefield nor Hull KR have been mentioned in the context of league leadership this season, although both have had their moments. The Wildcats are preparing to announce a signing that coach John Kear promises will be a major one. He will field one of his usual mix-and-match combinations against Rovers today, with Liam Higgins, Frankie Mariano, Julien Rinaldi and Josh Griffin all in line for recalls.

Michael Dobson is easing his way back to match fitness for the Robins, who look to his partnership with Blake Green to revive a disappointing season.

Sean Long's late-career move to Hull has been blighted by injury and he misses tomorrow's visit by his old club, St Helens, with a broken thumb that will keep him out for six to eight weeks.

Not that Saints are without their problems, with Jonny Lomax the latest name to be added to their injured list. Their coach, Royce Simmons, is so short of options at half-back that he would gladly pick Kyle Eastmond, despite his impending switch to Bath, if he has recovered from a bout of illness.

Salford are stepping up their search for a new coach after confirming that Shaun McRae, who has been on sick leave for months, will not be returning.