Wigan bank on big crowd backing for Rhinos test

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The Independent Online

Wigan believe that the hard sell they have brought to their game against Leeds can stand them in good stead tonight.

Over 19,000 tickets have been sold for the match that has been marketed as The Big One, with the club expecting to get close to the 22,300 gates for their game against St Helens and for the Hull derby, which are the best of the Super League season so far.

“We have re-activated some lapsed fans and attracted some new ones,” said the Wigan chief executive, Mick Hogan, who has promoted a range of special offers and even advertised in Yorkshire.

“The extra numbers will make a difference to the atmosphere and give our players a lift.”

The match is also the first since the news that a stand at what is soon to become the DW Stadium will be named after Billy Boston, despite opposition from some Wigan Athletic fans.

Hogan says that shows the continuing commitment of the ground’s owner, Dave Whelan, to rugby league.

“Despite what people might think, Dave Whelan still loves his rugby and rugby pays a lot of the bills here,” he said.

Fifth-placed Wigan will be without the injured Phil Bailey, whilst the Rhinos, joint-leaders of Super League, have Kevin Sinfield and Scott Donald fit to return.

The first Portuguese-born player to appear in British domestic competition could make his debut tomorrow. Carlos Mendes Varela is in Toulouse’s squad to face Widnes in the Co-operative Conference after joining them from Lyon Villeurbanne.

The Widnes forward, Steve Bannister, has joined Halifax on loan for the rest of the season.

Also tomorrow, Steve Deakin takes charge of Barrow as head coach for the first time against Leigh after being appointed over the head of Dave Clark this week.