Leigh face tough Wigan challenge on day one

Barrie McDermott reckons Leigh couldn’t have a harder opening-match mission on their return to Super League.

The Centurions, back in the big time after getting the nod to replace Toronto Wolfpack, might have avoided reigning champions St Helens first up.

But Sky pundit McDermott believes beaten Grand Finalists Wigan will provide just as stern a test at Headingley on Friday, March 6.

Leeds will host all six round-one games over three days, and the Leigh-Wigan derby is second on the bill after Saints face Salford.

Leigh memorably beat Wigan 50-34 at home during their last Super League campaign in 2018, their first victory over their local rivals in 33 years.

Liam Hood scored two tries while Ryan Hampshire, Danny Tickle, Lachlan Burr, Mitch Brown, Cory Paterson and Matty Dawson also touched down, with Ben Reynolds landing nine goals.

A repeat win would be a massive shot in the arm for John Duffy’s side, but former Wigan player McDermott warned: “Leigh couldn’t have a much tougher baptism.

“Wigan will be desperate to go one better than finishing runners-up in 2020, and have a stronger squad than last year with John Bateman’s return.”

Centurions coach John Duffy (pictured) has made a raft of signings, including Wigan duo Ben Flower and Craig Mullen and recent addition Tyrone McCarthy from Salford.

Ireland backrower McCarthy has been handed squad number 21, with Ryan Brierley, brought in from Hull KR for a third spell at Leigh, wearing number one.

That suggests the 28-year-old, who has also played for Huddersfield and Toronto, will be picked at fullback rather than in the halves.

Brierley, who played for Leigh between 2012-16 and on loan from Toronto in 2019, accepts it’s going to be tough year.

“I’m under no illusions as to how hard it’s going to be, but hopefully we can shock a few people with our enthusiasm,” he said.

According to Super League sponsor Betfred, the Centurions are currently 100/1 outsiders to win this year’s Grand Final.

Leigh 2021 squad numbers: 1 Ryan Brierley, 2 Matty Russell, 3 Iain Thornley, 4 Junior Sa’u, 5 Lewis Tierney, 6 Blake Wallace, 7 Joe Mellor, 8 Ben Flower, 9 Liam Hood, 10 Mark Ioane, 11 Ben Hellewell, 12 Jordan Thompson, 13 James Bell, 14 Matty Wildie, 15 Alex Gerrard, 16 Nathaniel Peteru, 17 Jamie Ellis, 18 Matty Gee, 19 Nathan Mason, 20 Adam Sidlow, 21 Tyrone McCarthy, 22 Craig Mullen, 23 Tom Spencer, 24 Keanan Brand

The above content is also available in the regular weekly edition of League Express, on newsstands every Monday in the UK and as a digital download. Click here for more details.