Wigan back to reality

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The Independent Online
Wigan will have a novel experience tonight - playing rugby league on a rugby league ground against a rugby league team, writes Dave Hadfield.

After a week in which they have worked wonders for the image of their code, the conquerors of Bath and victors at the Middlesex Sevens return to their roots against Halifax at Thrum Hall with their recent adventures fresh in mind.

Henry Paul, Martin Offiah and Scott Quinnell are all likely to miss the match with injuries picked up at Twickenham, which tends to belie the initial impression that some of the best tackling was by the stewards bringing down pitch invaders.

More than that, there is a theory that Wigan will have trouble focusing on their normal area of expertise.

"I wouldn't be surprised if Halifax did us a favour," said the St Helens coach, Shaun McRae, whose side are now four points clear of Wigan at the top of Super League. "No side is more desperate than Halifax, and they could really test Wigan's depth."

Halifax, without a win this season, have team problems of their own, with Mike Umaga becoming their fourth stand-off in four games and the local youngster Danny Seal making his debut as a substitute.

For all the deserved accolades that Wigan have received - even from previously sceptical sources - defeat at Halifax would be a heavy price to pay for two propaganda victories won on the code's behalf.

Although all thoughts of the return with Bath, under rugby union rules at Twickenham on 25 May, have been put to one side, one decision that has already been made is that Joe Lydon, Wigan's football executive, will come out of retirement for the occasion.

His long-range kicking game is a potential asset for that match. Wigan will rely on more traditional rugby league virtues tonight.

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