Wigan Warriors face their second high profile clash in as many weeks to begin the Super League campaign on Friday night when they take on the Leeds Rhinos in their opening home match of the season.
Leeds themselves have been involved in one big dust up and are set for another one here and with both sides losing last week they will each be desperate to get the job done here and get on the board for the year.
This match is probably a bigger one for the Wigan Warriors than their opponents. I say that for a couple of reasons. The first of those being the fact that they are at home, but also because they lost two points to a salary cap breach and should they lose here, they could be six points off the pace, which even this early in the piece would be less than ideal.
The scoreline suggested that Wigan were competitive at St Helens last week but in truth it probably flattered them a little as at no stage did you really feel the Warriors were going to win that match. I think most expected a drop off from Wigan this season but they can’t take too long to get back up to speed if they want to be involved in the Grand Final picture.
The new era for the Leeds Rhinos didn’t begin as they would have liked with their side going down quite heavily to the Warrington Wolves but it is probably going to take a bit of time for the new style to bed in and the signings they have made to adjust to the different competition. Even when the Rhinos were in their pomp though they rarely began campaigns strongly so I’m sure they won’t be panicking just yet.
One thing which Leeds will want to be in this match is more competitive and to do that they need to have come on in the last week in the attacking department. They were pretty easy to defend against in truth at Warrington but as combinations get more used to each other their attacking element should come on as a result.
With Tony Clubb and Gabe Hamlin both passed fit to play after being injury doubts from last week, Wigan coach Adrian Lam is sticking with the same 19 men that he named for the defeat to rivals Saints.
Leeds coach David Furner has made two changes to his squad. Jamie Jones-Buchanan and Cameron Smith exit with Nathaniel Peteru and Harry Newman coming in to replace them. They could well both start too.
It is never easy to bet on a match where both sides lost the previous week, especially this early in the season when we’ve not really had time to formulate a clear picture on each team but I think if I was a Leeds Rhinos fan, while I accept that it will take a few weeks to get up to top speed, I’d still be concerned if we couldn’t be competitive against a Wigan team who on paper at least look much weaker than last season.
Wigan lost some big players in the close season and even were they to have been replaced, which not all of them have, it would take time to react to their absences so I’m expecting them to be vulnerable here. It might be that with home advantage they still come out on top but I’d be starting to ask questions of Leeds if they can’t keep within 10pts here.
Back Leeds Rhinos (+10) to beat Wigan Warriors for a 4/10 stake at 1.91 with Betfred
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