Resurgence of Wigan leaves locals unmoved

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The Independent Online

One of the riddles of the season so far is why the crowds have not flocked back to Wigan, despite the the team playing some of the most spectacular rugby imaginable. Under Frank Endacott the side has rediscovered its flair and verve, with the last two games, against Warrington and Hull, showing it at something close to its best.

But although gates are up on last season, they are nothing like as high as the club needs and expects, with the 8,000 who saw them beat Hull at the JJB Stadium last Sunday particularly disappointing.

The visit of Wakefield Trinity tomorrow is also likely to pull in less than the break-even figure; winning back the hearts and minds of the Wigan public after all the upheavals of recent years is turning out to be a long-term project.

It is a match Wigan need to win to stay on top of Super League and they are unchanged for the third match running, with Andy Farrell continuing at stand-off in place of Tony Smith. Wakefield will have Neil Law, Martin Masella and the influential Willie Poching back for the game.

Leeds go to Hull with Iestyn Harris needing just eight points to become the eighth player in the club's 105-year history to reach 1,000 points.

"If you stop Iestyn Harris, you stop Leeds," said Hull's chief executive, Shane Richardson, this week and if that is a slight exaggeration, his prolific scoring underlines his immense value to them.

Leeds have also answered a lot of questions about their attitude since their Cup final defeat at Murrayfield, but Hull have a history of raising their game against them at The Boulevard. Both squads are unchanged, but Adrian Morley is likely to start for Leeds, rather than coming off the bench.

Warrington have Andrew Gee back in their front row after injury at Salford, who are still without the injured Darren Brown and Martin Crompton, plus the suspended Craig Makin and Brad Hepi.

Castleford will be without the suspended Dean Sampson, as well as carrying an injury list headed by Brad Davis, against Huddersfield-Sheffield, who have lost their French winger, Sylvain Houles, for the season. Houles, who has shown considerable promise since crossing the Channel, has a serious knee injury - another blow for Super League's bottom club.

Swinton's home match against Leigh will become the first in the Northern Ford Premiership to be sponsored by a national newspaper - The Independent, which also sponsored last year's Student World Cup. Leigh are one of three clubs who could be top of the table after tomorrow's game; the others are Dewsbury, at home to Featherstone, and Keighley, at home to Batley.

* A local winner is guaranteed when Skirlaugh defend their British Amateur Rugby League Association National Cup against fellow Hull team Ideal Isberg in today's final at The Boulevard. The holders are appearing in a record-equalling fourth final and are aiming for a league and cup double.

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