Wigan's season of uncertainty

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Rugby League

Wigan go into their first Super League match at Oldham this afternoon hoping to demonstrate that suggestions of their imminent demise are both premature and wishful.

The perennial champions under the old winter set-up start their campaign against a side that beat them in the league last season, although this game is at the rather more temperate Boundary Park rather than Watersheddings.

Defeat at Salford in the Challenge Cup and a draw in a friendly there on Sunday have mobilised the whole game to search for cracks and the Wigan captain, Shaun Edwards, has called on his forwards to show that they still have their old vigour. Edwards, along with Martin Offiah and Kelvin Skerrett, should be fit to play at Oldham - who have their new Australians, Matt Munro and Andrew Patmore available - after missing the friendly.

Also this afternoon, the London Broncos go to the side that is unlikely ever to become widely known as the Halifax Bluesox for a demanding start to their Super League career.

The new London coach, Tony Currie, is predicting an immediate impact from his major summer signing, the Queensland prop, Gavin Allen, who has had a five-month rest since his last competitive game.

"Some of the big hits he will put on the opposition will make the stands shudder," Currie said, predicting that the first stage of the planned redevelopment at Thrum Hall could start ahead of schedule.

The match will provide the first test of Currie's promise to introduce new defensive rigour into the Broncos' repertoire. Halifax, who finished a creditable third last season, have Martin Moana missing but are close to full strength otherwise, with Paul Moriarty making his first-team comeback as substitute.

The highlights of tomorrow's programme are Leeds' match against Warrington, and the meeting of the Challenge Cup finalists Bradford with Castleford. Leeds will again be without Carl Hall, while the player who travelled to Bradford in exchange for him, Paul Cook, is doubtful with a damaged ankle. Glen Tomlinson and James Lowes, both cup-tied for the semi-final, are in Bradford's squad.

In the First Division, Huddersfield will have a vastly experienced new half-back pairing of Garry Schofield and Greg Mackey against Wakefield Trinity. By far the most significant game in the Second Division is the debut of the new South Wales club, who play Hull KR at Aberavon.

Efforts to sign up a credible side in the short time available have been thwarted, so the Welsh will have a transitional look. The two Papua New Guineans, Stanley Gene and John Okul, are to make their first appearances for Rovers.

Comments