Wigan set to appoint Noble as coach after go-ahead from Bulls

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The Independent Online

Wigan plan to make their new coaching appointment next week, after being given permission by Bradford to talk to Brian Noble. The Bulls admit that Noble's future is "up in the air" following his emergence as the man Wigan want to arrest the alarming slide that has taken them to the foot of Super League and led to the sacking of Ian Millward. The Warriors have a derby at St Helens today.

The Wigan chairman, Maurice Lindsay, has stopped short of naming Noble, but told the club's website: "We are almost certainly on the brink of making an announcement and our preferred choice is a man of quality and integrity.

"He will bring with him a lot of credibility. He has a terrific track record and will get the full support of our fans. We are hopeful that he will be able to take up the post early next week and will be in full charge for the Huddersfield game."

Apart from the notorious insecurity of the job, Noble would need to be persuaded that it is worth switching from the Super League champions to the bottom club and that he could combine the job with commuting from his home near Bradford and continuing to coach Great Britain. The situation could also be complicated by his well-documented ambition to coach an Australian club.

If he does decide to leave, the Bulls have what they have already identified as a ready-made replacement in his assistant, Steve McNamara, who last week turned down the head coach's job at Hull.

There is also a suggestion that Bradford, with their shortage of cash, might release one or more players to make the trip over the Pennines with Noble, with the veteran prop, Joe Vagana, and the young back-rower, Jamie Langley, the likely contenders.

More immediately, Wigan take a depleted squad to Saints today for what even their most optimistic supporters must suspect will be a painful afternoon. Saints are top of the table and have been in such compelling form that a repeat of last year's 75-0 Challenge Cup scoreline looks a genuine possibility.

The Wigan hooker, Micky Higham, needs no reminder, however, that this is a fixture which can throw up illogical results. Three years ago, he was in a St Helens side that seemed nailed on against an equally weak Wigan line-up, but which lost 24-22.

"Nobody's going to give us a cat in hell's chance," said Higham, a key Millward signing from his old club this winter. "But maybe Saints will think that they are heading for a convincing win and we can use that."

On top of the injury toll that plagued Millward, Wigan are today also without Mark Calderwood, with Darrell Goulding his likely replacement on the wing.

Warrington have the chance to avenge their surprise opening-day home defeat by Salford when the teams meet at the Halliwell Jones Stadium. The Wolves were beaten 24-6 by the Reds in February but last week showed improved form in winning away at the champions, Bradford.

"Good Friday will be a totally different fixture," insisted the Warrington club captain, Paul Rauhihi.