Lydon's painful final fling

Wigan's coach and manager return as players today

Joe Lydon expects to be reminded tomorrow morning just why he is no longer playing the game at which he made his name. Wigan's football manager comes out of retirement to play at stand-off in the cross-code fixture under union rules at Twickenham this afternoon and there is likely to be a price to be paid.

"If I train or play now I feel it the day after," he said. "I might just have one last fling left in me, but that's all."

Also having a last fling is the 41-year-old Wigan coach, Graeme West, who last appeared in the first team in 1991, but has played in reserve matches and charity games since then. The former New Zealand international played some rugby union in his teens and his height - he is 6ft 5in - makes him a potential ball-winner in the second row.

At 32, Lydon is no fossil, but nagging knee problems effectively ended his playing career almost two years ago. There have been compensations, like a high-profile job as the public face of the Wigan club, but today's comeback is strictly a one-off.

It is not, however, a sentimental selection. Lydon trained with the first team and they asked him to play against Bath. He has two things to offer - a rugby union pedigree in his youth and a famous long-range kicking game that could be tactically valuable.

Lydon was an England Schoolboy international in union, touring Zimbabwe with the likes of Kevin Simms and facing Rory Underwood in North of England trials before deciding his future lay in league.

"I enjoyed my rugby union and I probably would have carried on with it if better and better offers hadn't come from league. I've no regrets about opting for league, but it's only natural that you wonder how far you would have gone."

For Lydon, now in the middle of a testimonial season after 10 years with his home-town club, that must always remain a matter of conjecture.

His experience in union, he also believes, is too distant to be of any direct benefit today. "It's too long ago," he says. "Even players like Scott Quinnell, who have not been away from union for long, have been finding it difficult to adapt to it again."

That leaves Lydon's celebrated field-gun kicking. "The boot's all right," he says. "It's the leg that's no good."

In fact, observers of Wigan's union preparation say that Lydon's kicking can still earn valuable ground, even if he might have to pay for the privilege on Sunday morning.

He is making no promises, though, that there will be any repeat of his most memorable kicking feat, a drop-goal measured at a Hugo Porta-esque 61 yards in the Challenge Cup semi-final against Warrington in 1989. "I would need a howitzer now to get it over from that range," he said, once more enjoying the role of the pensioned-off dodderer.

For all that, Lydon's cool head can exert a steadying influence in trying circumstances, especially if Shaun Edwards does not make one of his Lazarus- like recoveries and Craig Murdock plays at scrum-half.

But he has no dreams of leading them to victory. "I think it is a false premise to say that because we won the Middlesex Sevens we can beat Bath at the 15-a-side game.

"Even in the Sevens, we struggled at times to get the ball. We were 15 points down in the final before we got hold of the ball and that is a game with a lot more space and a lot less in the way of technicalities."

Wigan have worked hard in preparation - you would expect nothing less of them - but Lydon says that their knowledge is superficial. "It's like cramming for exams. We will be going in knowing that we have not really mastered our subject.

"In the heat of the moment, you tend to go back to what you know and our instincts won't be any good to us at all."

Nor does Lydon delude himself about Bath's likely approach, after the 82-6 hiding they took at Maine Road.

"They've got to win it," he said. "They will start off as though it's a cup final. They will go full tilt for 20 minutes, see how we cope with it and then think about playing open rugby.

"They also realise that we eased off at Maine Road. That was our game we were playing then and we were not in the business of humiliating or injuring people."

Lydon admits to worrying about the potential for injury when two cultures clash in the front rows of the scrum today. "A lot will depend on the referee there, but the priority should be that nobody should get hurt.

"This has all been a great piece of history to take part in, but we have our bread and butter to think of."

Voices
Lucerne’s Hotel Château Gütsch, one of the lots in our Homeless Veterans appeal charity auction
charity appeal
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France
tv
News
people

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Sport
Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe (left) is congratulated by winning penalty taker Miguel Llera (right)
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
News
i100
Travel
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Arts and Entertainment
Jennifer Saunders stars as Miss Windsor, Dennis's hysterical French teacher
filmJennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Nabil Bentaleb (centre) celebrates putting Tottenham ahead
footballTottenham 4 Newcastle 0: Spurs fans dreaming of Wembley final after dominant win
Voices
Jimmy Mubenga died after being restrained on an aircraft by G4S escorts
voicesJonathan Cox: Tragedy of Jimmy Mubenga highlights lack of dignity shown to migrants
Life and Style
Sebastian Siemiatkowski is the 33-year-old co-founder and CEO of Klarna, which provides a simple way for people to buy things online
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...

Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - Nationwide - OTE £65,000

£30000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small technology business ...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum