Head coach Richard Agar has suggested that Wigan are the ‘biggest challenge in the game’ ahead of Sunday’s home clash with the Warriors at the Rapid Solicitors Stadium.
Shaun Wane’s men have only lost four games in all competitions, sit at the top of Super League and play Leeds Rhinos in the Challenge Cup semi-final next weekend to underline their dominance in 2012.
The cherry and whites had won their previous 13 fixtures leading into last week’s 30-22 home defeat by Bradford which was a rare blip but Agar is hoping that will continue into this weekend’s fixture.
“They had a defeat last week and they probably didn’t hit the levels they are used to,” Agar told the weekly media conference which you can see in full on Wildcats TV by clicking HERE.
“Having said that, I thought Bradford were immense, I thought it was an outstanding performance by them. The way they hit and stuck in the tackle, they chanced their arm in attack too and they got some great rewards for that and they really deserved the win.
“You can imagine that Shaun has been putting them through it this week. They have a Challenge Cup semi-final on the horizon as well so they will obviously be playing for spots for that. On any given day Wigan are probably the biggest challenge in the game so we know what’s coming but, knowing what is coming and stopping it is too different things.
“When you throw their full-back into it as well he is probably the best talent we have in this game.”
Lee Smith is expected to play inside Ben Cockayne after coming into the 19-man squad to replace the injured Vince Mellars (eye) whilst Dean Collis (collarbone), Frankie Mariano (groin) and Steve Southern (ankle) remain out through injury.
The Wildcats defence will have to be on top form to stop the Warriors and with Danny Washbrook leading the tackling charts in Super League with 740, he and second on the stats table, Paul Aiton, halting the visitors’ progress will be paramount to gaining a result.
The Trinity chief has been very impressed by Washbrook since he arrived from Hull in the off season.
“I think the top tackler award can mean a lot of things,” said Agar.
“Danny and Paul Aiton are both up there, Danny Houghton always used to be up there when I coached him at Hull and the guys that are 80 minute players in the middle of the field always have a chance. I think it is probably an indication, especially from the first half of the season, that we didn’t have the ball as much as the opposition.
“That is true because there are a lot of games where we would come off on the set count at the backside of it so we had to do a lot more tackling. I think its testament to Washy and to Paul Aiton who is up there too about their durability.
“They play most games this year and to consistently play 80 minutes in the middle of the park and get through that workload is a good sign for us that we not only have physically strong but mentally tough as well. I think Washy has re-found his feet again because he has been playing consistently at loose forward which he is accustomed to and playing consistently well.
“It has been a really good move for him, he was only a year or two short of a benefit (at Hull FC) and he did get a contract offer by Hull but he chose to make a move based on his career and it’s a move that’s worked out for him, he has been a consistent performer for us.”
With the recent arrival of Smith questions were put forward from the press about future signings and Agar said work is going on behind the scenes to improve the squad.
“It is ongoing as it has been for a while. We are looking to strengthen up front, that’s for sure, we are probably going to look to bring some more depth into our outside backs. I’d love to think Lee Smith could be a long term option for us but if the time did come that Lee was up for grabs there would be plenty of clubs in for him so to get him in for this month is really important.”
Watch the full press conference with head coach Richard Agar on Wildcats TV HERE where he talks more in-depth about progress on signing players and the influence Lee Smith can have on the team.
Tickets for Sunday’s game – the first in a month at the Rapid Solicitors Stadium – are on sale now with a big away following set to cheer on the cherry and whites, with Wildcats fans being challenged to back the team in their numbers and ensure another great atmosphere.
Tickets can be purchased at the Ridings Centre Store, Rapid Solicitors Stadium Box Office, by calling 01924 201548 or buy online by clicking HERE.
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