Wigan Warriors coach Shaun Wane is set to give at least one more youngster his First Utility Super League debut in Friday’s eagerly-awaited derby with St Helens after being stricken by injuries.
Wane threw untried teenagers Connor Farrell and Callum Wright into the last two games and will delve more into the club’s academy team for the visit of the league leaders to the DW Stadium for a match Wane has likened to a Grand Final.
Next in line to make his senior bow is Jamie Doran, a 19-year-old half-back from Cumbria, while Wane has also placed on stand-by Oliver Gildart, a 17-year-old centre, prop Ben Austin, 20, and back rower Rob Lever, 18.
“We’re struggling with a few outside backs like Josh Charnley, Daryl Goulding and Sam Powell, so we’ll have a look at them on Thursday,” Wane told a press conference at Orrell.
“I’m inclined to give a debut out to Jamie Doran. He’s been with us for four years and he’s a good kid.”
The reigning champions will have skipper Sean O’Loughlin back after he sat out Sunday’s surprise defeat at Wakefield Trinity Wildcats but they picked up fresh injuries to George Williams (arm) and Dan Sarginson (knee), who are facing late fitness checks.
In addition to a host of injuries, Wigan will be without England second rower Liam Farrell after he accepted a one-match ban for a dangerous tackle against the Wildcats.
“We’ve lost Liam Farrell to a stupid suspension,” Wane said. “It’s a blow because he’s been outstanding – he’s been probably the best back-row in the competition.
“But his technique was poor and he deserved to be banned. We’ll have to take it on the chin.
“John Bateman took a whack on his chest and it would have been ideal to give him a rest but he’ll have to play now.”
Like Farrell, centre Anthony Gelling submitted an early-guilty plea to a grade A offence of punching but he avoided a ban.
Wane had planned to “blood” several of the club’s promising youngsters this season but not in a top-of-the-table derby against St Helens.
“It’s unfortunate but there’s absolutely nobody left,” he said. “We can’t do it any other way. It’s not ideal because I do care for my players. We have a duty of care to make sure they’re healthy.
“It’s a big step for them but they’ve done well in the Under-19s and it’s just a bit faster and a bit tougher. We’ll see what they’re made of.”
With hooker Michael McIlorum ruled out for two months with a broken arm, Wane will rely on Williams and Wright until he is fit to return after deciding not to recall Logan Tomkins from his loan spell at Salford Red Devils.
“It’s not an option,” Wane said. “We gave our word to Salford and I won’t go back on that. He’s there for the season.
“I’m not overly gutted. Micky Mac will be back for three or four games before the play-offs, and it’s the same with Iain Thornley and Blake Green. We’ll be okay.”
In the short term, Wane remains confident of completing the double over Saints and returning to the top of the table.
“It’s like a Grand Final to all the Wigan lads especially,” he said. “It means everything to us. We’re a bit busted at the minute but the team I put out will be having a go at Saints and making sure we get the two points.”