Gregory the Wigan worrier

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The Independent Online

Not for the first time in his short career as Wigan's coach, Mike Gregory is forced to throw an unknown into the fray against Huddersfield this afternoon. A combination of injuries and suspensions means that Bob Beswick, a 19-year-old utility forward, will make his debut off the bench at the McAlpine Stadium.

Not for the first time in his short career as Wigan's coach, Mike Gregory is forced to throw an unknown into the fray against Huddersfield this afternoon. A combination of injuries and suspensions means that Bob Beswick, a 19-year-old utility forward, will make his debut off the bench at the McAlpine Stadium.

Gregory admits that it had not been in his plans to call on Beswick so soon, but Mick Cassidy and Danny Sculthorpe are banned and their likely stand-ins, Harrison Hansen and Dave Allen, have both been added to Wigan's lengthy injury list. He has confidence, however, that like so many of his near-contemporaries over the last year, young Beswick will rise to the occasion, as he did when called up for the Great Britain Academy side last year.

"He's a very talented utility player," says Gregory, who was also in charge of that team. "Initially, he was a back-rower who could also play stand-off, but going into the Tests against Australia we were short of a hooker. He's got all the skills needed and he adapted very well."

With one hooker already on the bench in Mark Smith, Beswick will be regarded as a back-rower for his first-team debut. Gregory is convinced that he is already capable of doing a job, which is just as well, because Wigan - defeated twice in their first three Super League games - cannot afford any weak links.

Last year, while Gregory was still assistant to Stuart Raper, Wigan went to Huddersfield and lost 32-24, one of the results that contributed to Raper losing his job. "We went into that game expecting to turn up and win," he says. "I don't think there's any danger of that this time. Our players have only got to look at the table; they're in form and we aren't."

Huddersfield are indeed one of the form teams; semi-finalists in the Challenge Cup, even their sole Super League defeat, a narrow one to Bradford, reflected considerable credit on them.

"They're a dogged team, with a big pack to take them forward. Add in players like Stanley Gene, Brandon Costin and David March and that makes them a very good outfit, and Paul Reilly is playing sensationally at full-back," Gregory says.

The potential is there for a third Super League defeat that would turn a modest start into a mini-crisis.

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