It’s fourth place against second place on Friday night as Leeds take on Wigan at Emerald Headingley Stadium in the weekend’s stand-out fixture.
Both teams have made strong starts to the Super League season with just a point separating them as it stands, setting things up nicely for another huge battle between the winners of the last two Grand Finals.
Leeds battled back from an 8-point deficit with 20 minutes remaining in the West Yorkshire derby at Wakefield to eventually win 28-26. Captain Kallum Watkins scored 16 of his side’s points through two tries and four goals as he continued his fine recent form.
The win made it two wins in the week following the victory over Salford on Easter Monday, and five points from a possible six over the Easter period.
Wigan pulled off an even more impressive comeback as they recovered from being 21 points down to beat Catalans 32-23 at the Stade Gilbert Brutus. 15-0 down at half-time and 21-0 down after 42 minutes, Wigan turned on the style and simply had too much for the Dragons as they ran in six tries in just over half an hour to steal the win.
Since losing the huge Easter Friday derby with St. Helens, Shaun Wane’s side have recorded back-to-back wins and have scored 76 points in the process, making them the second most potent attack in the league behind St. Helens, who have scored just 4 points more than the Cherry and White’s despite playing a game more.
The Rhinos have an impressive home record against Friday’s opponents, winning each of the last 8 games with the Warriors at Headingley. The most recent of those came in round 1 of the 2017 Super 8’s, a game Leeds won 32-16 with Stevie Ward scoring his only career hat-trick.
Wigan’s last win on Leeds’ turf came back in 2012, when they became the first team since 1996 to put 50 points past Leeds at Headingley in a 50-8 demolition of the Rhinos.
This will be the 29th meeting in all competitions between Leeds and Wigan since the turn of the decade, and how often they go up against each other is just one of the reasons why this fixture is one of the biggest in Super League. Wigan have a marginally better overall record in those clashes, winning 15 of them, while Leeds have won 13 and there has also been one draw.
Adam Cuthbertson could make his return for the Rhinos after missing almost two months of action due to a broken hand. The 33-year old forward suffered the injury in the World Club Challenge loss to Melbourne in February. Stand-off Joel Moon is available after missing the win over Wakefield due to illness and Brett Delaney comes back in after he also missed the game at the Mobile Rocket Stadium due to a slight hamstring issue.
Liam Sutcliffe drops out of the squad, while Mitch Garbutt (knee), Nathaniel Peteru (torn bicep) and Jack Walker (ankle injury) both remain absent.
Wigan have made just one change to their squad, with Morgan Escaré coming in for Ben Flower who is ruled out by the head injury protocol after the knock he took in the game in France last Saturday.
Joel Tomkins wasn’t risked last week as a precaution due to hip problem but is in the squad, and winger Tom Davies misses a second consecutive game, this time because of an ankle injury.
The 19-man squads in full are-
Leeds Rhinos: Ashton Golding, Tom Briscoe, Kallum Watkins, Ryan Hall, Joel Moon, Richie Myler, Adam Cuthbertson, Matt Parcell, Brad Singleton, Jamie Jones-Buchanan, Carl Ablett, Stevie Ward, Brad Dwyer, Brett Delaney, Anthony Mullally, Ash Handley, Cameron Smith, Mikolaj Oledzki, Josh Walters.
Wigan Warriors: Sam Tomkins, Dan Sarginson, Oliver Gildart, Joe Burgess, George Williams, Sam Powell, Tony Clubb, Thomas Leuluai, Joel Tomkins, Liam Farrell, Sean O’Loughlin, John Bateman, Ryan Sutton, Taulima Tautai, Willie Isa, Morgan Escaré, Liam Marshall, Romain Navarrete, Gabe Hamlin.
Date: Friday 13th April 2018.
Venue: Emerald Headingley Stadium.
Referee: Ben Thaler.