Super League preview: Wigan Warriors v Huddersfield Giants
Last Updated: 09/08/13 9:55pm
Top spot in Super League is up for grabs at the DW Stadium on Friday when Wigan play host to league leaders Huddersfield, live on Sky Sports 3HD.
The Warriors are just a point behind Huddersfield after beating Hull KR last week while the Giants maintained their fine form by dispatching Salford on Sunday.
Paul Anderson's men saw off the Warriors 22-10 in February while they also claimed a 20-16 success over Shaun Wane's side at the DW last season.
Huddersfield have failed to build upon positive starts in recent seasons, but victory for the West Yorkshire club over last season's League Leaders' Shield winners would further enhance their Grand Final prospects.
A win for Huddersfield would leave Wigan a mountain to climb to claim top spot with just three rounds of the league calendar remaining, while Warrington Wolves also have their eyes on the prize.
The hosts are boosted ahead of the match by the news that Sam Tomkins, Pat Richards, Liam Farrell and Gil Dudson all return to Wane's 19-man squad.
Tomkins, who was replaced by Ryan Hampshire against the Robins, is back after illness while goal-kicking winger Richards comes in for youngster Joe Burgess.
"Sam is good. He had a bit of food poisoning, a 24-hour bug. It was just bad timing," explained Wane, who will be without Matty Smith, Sean O'Loughlin and Ben Flower.
"We have got a few little knocks and bruises that we'll need to check on. It'll be late on that I select my team - which is quite common. It is just that stage of the season - 20-odd rounds when you get week-in, week-out knocks."
The Giants also welcome back players from injury with hooker Shaun Lunt and forward Jason Chan fit and available - the pair have come in for Josh Johnson and Nathan Mason.
In-form centre Joe Wardle, who is forming a lethal left-side partnership with back-row forward Brett Ferres and winger Aaron Murphy, cannot wait to go head-to-head with the Warriors.
"I can't wait for Friday," Wardle told the Huddersfield Examiner. "When you take up the game, you dream of playing in top-of-the-table games in front of big crowds at places like Wigan.
"We know if we go there and win, we'll put ourselves in a fantastic position to lift the League Leaders Shield. Obviously, it's not going to be easy, but we know we can do it - and I know we'll be ready.
"Personally, this is the biggest game of my career so far, but I'm really looking forward to it. I absolutely love testing myself against the best and showing what I can do on the biggest stages, and this stage is massive."
Wigan: Charnley, Crosby, Dudson, Farrell, Gelling, Goulding, Green, Hansen, Hughes, Lauaki, McIlorum, Mossop, S. Powell, Richards, Taylor, Thornley, L. Tomkins, S. Tomkins, Tuson.
Huddersfield: Grix, Cudjoe, Wardle, McGillvary, Brough, Robinson, Crabtree, Lunt, Kopczak, Ferres, Faiumu, Lawrence, Patrick, Chan, Ta'ai, Murphy, Cording, Ferguson, Wood.