Wigan eager to satisfy hunger

Rugby League
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The Independent Online
The forgotten team versus the team that has unaccountably forgotten to win a trophy so far this season. That is how they line up this evening in a fascinating first semi-final of the Premiership.

Wigan, empty-handed at this stage, are hungry to the point of starvation, so they are the favourites not only to go to Old Trafford next Sunday but to win the Premiership. Perhaps their preparation has not been perfect this week, with Henry Paul, Gary Connolly and Va'aiga Tuigamala taking time out to tie up their winters in rugby union, but does anyone really want to bet on Wigan completing a full campaign without winning anything?

Bradford Bulls have slipped out of the spotlight of late. Assured of third place no matter what, they have gone off the boil and need to rediscover the form that made them the best team in the country in mid-season.

Several Bulls are said to be snorting over their omission from the Super League "Dream Team" announced this week. Robbie Paul, Stuart Spruce and Steve McNamara all have the perfect opportunity to show that they are the best in their positions. If they can do so, the unthinkable prospect of an empty trophy cabinet at Central Park could just become a reality.

Those in search of an appetiser for that match could do far worse than the Halifax Student World Cup final at Salford tomorrow afternoon.

The finalists are a nice contrast - Australia, the clear pre-tournament favourites, and Western Samoa, who have surprised even themselves by getting this far.

When it comes to fathoming the reason for their success, do not tell the Samoans that small is beautiful, because this is arguably the biggest rugby league team that has ever taken the field. Their backs are built like prop forwards and virtually every member of their pack makes that most celebrated of Samoan players, Va'aiga Tuigamala, look positively anorexic.

"We are expecting a very physical game, because we will be heavily outweighed," says the Australian coach, John McMartin. His side, however, is formidably well-drilled and capable of demonstrating that size is not everything by retaining the world championship.

Tomorrow's programme consists of an intriguing second Premiership semi- final between St Helens, who hope that Paul Newlove will be able to carry on playing on his injured foot, and London Broncos, who feel with some justification that they should have beaten them twice already this season and that their time is due, and the two divisional semi-finals which will determine the undercard at Old Trafford.

Salford should be too strong for the Second Division champions, Hull KR, but the other Humberside club, Hull, might just sneak under Keighley's guard at Cougar Park.

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