The first full house to welcome Wigan to Knowsley Road in the Super League era will see a contest tonight which could hinge heavily on the fitness of key players.
St Helens were without six regulars in their shock 40-6 defeat at the London Broncos on Good Friday. Most of them will be back, but the vital question could be whether Keiron Cunningham recovers from the ankle injury which forced him off.
Cunningham has been having intensive physiotherapy in a bid to be ready in time, but the decision is likely to be a late one, with Mick Higham standing by to deputise. "I want to get back, I don't like missing derby games," said the Great Britain hooker.
Wigan should have Craig Smith and Mick Cassidy back after resting knocks against Castleford, but their big doubt is Kris Radlinski, their ultra-reliable full-back, who strained his groin jumping for a high ball in that game. With Gary Connolly also out with a broken finger, Stuart Raper could play David Hodgson in an unfamiliar role, although he has the option of recalling Wes Davies from Orrell rugby union club.
Just down the road a few hours earlier, there is an intriguing local spat between two sides in starkly contrasting frames of mind after Friday's results.
Warrington were beaten by Salford, so changes can be expected for the visit of Widnes. One option that Steve Anderson does not have is recalling Lee Penny, because the full-back will be out of action for six weeks with a broken hand.
Widnes confirmed the favourable impression they have made since their promotion to Super League by thrashing Wakefield, but their season could depend upon how they fare against their various local rivals.
The meeting between Wakefield and Bradford has the distinction, by virtue of kicking off at 3.35pm, of being the 1,000th Super League fixture. It is unlikely to be one of the closest, with two more untried youngsters, Rob Spicer and Mark Barlow, called up by Trinity. "They will remember who they made the debuts against," said their coach, Peter Roe. "If they can pull off a tackle or score a try, they will be the better for the experience."
Salford hope to continue their good work at Halifax, while London against Hull has the look of a game that will have an impact on the play-off places at the end of the season.
n John Kear will take an emerging England team on an end-of-season tour of the Pacific. The Wigan assistant coach, who was in charge of England for the 2000 World Cup, is in charge for a tour expected to include games against Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Samoa and Tonga. The trip will not involve full international players, as it clashes with the early part of the New Zealand tour of Great Britain.Reuse content