Opposition Profile: Wigan Warriors

Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com - 03/09/2020 - Rugby League - Betfred Super League - Hull KR v Wigan Warriors - Emerald Headingley Stadium, Leeds, England - Wigan's Jake Bibby & Harry Smith come out to the field of play against Hull KR.

A place in the Coral Challenge Cup Final is at stake for Leeds Rhinos and Wigan Warriors this Saturday when both sides go head to head at the Totally Wicked Stadium, kick off 2:30pm.

This is the 18th time in 25 years that the Rhinos have reached the semi final stage as Richard Agar’s men look to reach the Final for the first time since 2015. Should Wigan progress, Adrian Lam’s side could be in line to secure a record 20th Cup Final win.

With so much at stake, let’s take a look at our opponents:


Overview

Having not won the Challenge Cup in seven years, Wigan Warriors have the opportunity to go back to Wembley for the first time since 2017 should they beat the Rhinos.

Last year’s two point defeat to eventual winners Warrington Wolves in the sixth round prematurely ended Wigan’s Cup campaign but, like the Rhinos, Adrian Lam’s side have come back stronger in 2020 to get to the last four stage.

Their form since the restart has been nearly faultless, only losing to Hull KR at Emerald Headingley. That run includes their quarter final clash with Hull FC at the AJ Bell Stadium. Tries from Sam Powell, Liam Farrell, Joe Burgess and two from Bevan French won the game for Wigan in the first half before Farrell again and Oliver Gidart sealed the win for Lam’s side; Male Fonua scoring Hull’s only try in the 36-4 result.

Picture by Ed Sykes/SWpix.com
Sam Powell scores Wigan’s first try in the Coral Challenge Cup Quarter Final against Hull FC

In Tuesday’s Super League matchup against rivals St Helens, a number of Wigan’s younger talents to stepped up, including winter signing Kai Pearce-Paul plus Academy products Sam Halsall, Harry Rushton and Umyla Hanley, son of Wigan and Leeds legend Ellery. It was a gutsy performance from the youngsters but the reigning Super League Champions proved too strong, taking away a 44-0 win.


Challenge Cup Semi Final Form

Wigan’s success when they have made it to the semi final stage of the Challenge Cup is well documented. Having suffered a 25-4 defeat to Leeds in 1968, the Cherry and Whites didn’t lose when they reached the final four between 1970 and 2003, winning 13 times. Out of those thirteen wins, Wigan went on to win the Cup on ten occasions (two of them coming against Leeds in the 1993-94 and 1994-95 seasons).

In 2013, as his side went on to win both the Challenge Cup and Super League trophy, Shaun Wane’s side demolished London Broncos 70-0 at Leigh Sports Village. There were ten different try scorers for the Warriors on that occasion; wingers Pat Richards and Josh Charnley scoring two tries apiece while Richards also added 11 conversions to finish with a personal points tally of 30.

Wigan last faced Leeds in a Challenge Cup semi final in 2012 at Huddersfield’s John Smith’s Stadium. The Rhinos went home 39-28 victors on that day.

Their most recent semi final match came on their way to the Final in 2017 against fellow 2020 semi finalists Salford Red Devils. The Red Devils led by two points at the break despite tries from Wigan’s Oliver Gildart and Willie Isa but scores from Michael McIlorum and Gildart’s second of the match on 79 minutes helped the Warriors turn the tables to book their date with Wembley as 27-14 victors. 

Last Ten Challenge Cup Semi Final Matches

2017: Wigan Warriors 27 Salford Red Devils 14

2016: Wigan Warriors 12 Hull FC 16

2013: Wigan Warriors* 70 London Broncos 0

2012: Wigan Warriors 28 Leeds Rhinos 39

2011: Wigan Warriors* 18 St Helens 12

2009: Wigan Warriors 26 Warrington Wolves 39

2007: Wigan Warriors 24 Catalans Dragons 37

2004: Wigan Warriors 30 Warrington Wolves 18

2003: Wigan Warriors 22 Bradford Bulls 36

2002: Wigan Warriors* 20 Castleford Tigers 10

*Went on to win the Cup


Challenge Cup Record against the Rhinos

We can track clashes between Leeds and Wigan in the Challenge Cup back as far as 1899, when Leeds claimed a 3-0 win over the Cherry and Whites in round two. Over 121 years, Saturday’s match will be the 29th time the two sides have met in any round of the Cup.

Specifically in the last four, Saturday’s match will be the fourth time the two sides have been drawn together. The Rhinos’ 39-28 win in 2012 is the most recent meeting at this stage of the competition, as Ryan Hall, Ben Jones-Bishop and Zak Hardaker all scored two tries apiece to send Leeds back to the final, defeating the defending Cup Champions.

Wigan faced Leeds most recently defeated Leeds 28-18 to lift the Cup in 2011.

The sides also meet in the semi final stage in 1968 (Leeds 25 Wigan 4), 1966 (Leeds 2 Wigan 7) and in notably 1944 when the semi finals and final were played over two legs. Leeds, who had lost out on winning the Cup the year before against Dewsbury, took a 10-5 advantage in the first match but a 11-4 result for Wigan saw the Cherry and Whites go through to the last two with a 16-14 aggregate score.


Squad News


Key Players

BEVAN FRENCH

Position: Half Back/Full Back

Currently leading Super League in tries scored (10)

Looking to make it to his first major domestic Cup final .

Bio: French is an important part to Adrian Lams’s squad and his try scoring ability has made him one of the most lethal backs in the League. His two tries against Hull FC in the quarter final continued French’s try scoring record for the season, taking it to 12 in all competitions.

LIAM FARRELL

Position: Second Row

Celebrates his testimonial year in 2020

Aiming to get to his fourth Challenge Cup Final having played in the 2011 and 2013 wins and 2017 defeat.

Bio: One of the only players in Wigan’s side to have won the Challenge Cup, Farrell can add a fourth Final appearance should Wigan progress on Saturday. He is the top metre maker in Super League so expect him to be one of the players his coach relies on to see the Warriors return to Wembley.