Wigan captain Sean O’Loughlin says the traditional Good Friday derby with St Helens is the first “big game” of 2017 – and he insists that the Warriors are preparing for a response from the Saints after a turbulent week for their bitter rivals.
The first derby of the new season takes place at the DW Stadium this lunchtime; and it is the Saints’ first game since sacking Keiron Cunningham on Monday.
And O’Loughlin told TotalRL that Wigan are preparing for the best St Helens possible in what is likely to be a sold-out Good Friday derby.
“Keiron is a really well-respected bloke; I’ve played alongside him and I know how he’s always got time for people,” he said.
“I feel for him, but from our point of view we’re not thinking about what’s gone on there because it’s nothing to do with us. I do know though from experience that it can increase the intensity so we’re preparing to face the best St Helens side possible. We know there’s going to be a reaction and an improvement from them.”
O’Loughlin has missed Wigan’s last few games with injury, but is expected to return to the side for the derby. He admits it is a game you do not want to miss.
He said: “You don’t want to be sat on the sidelines for these. You’ve got your finals and play-off games but these are right up there.
“It’s a huge, huge game; with it being the Easter one over Good Friday too you get the feel that it’s the first big game of the season. Everyone can’t wait to get going in it. We’ve been in the World Club Challenge which was massive and we’ve played some top sides but this as an occasion, the early kick-off with the big crowd, it’s one you’ve always got your eye on.
“They’re special to be a part of.”
Both Wigan and St Helens find themselves marooned in mid-table as the midway point of the regular season approaches – but O’Loughlin stresses that both sides’ inconsistencies will make them more determined to win today.
“The form of both sides make each other a bit hungrier I guess.
“I’ve seen both sides of it, with one side not being great, but we’re both going into it not doing as well as we want to be. But they’re Wigan-Saints games, everyone raises their game no matter what and we’re hoping this will be a springboard to kick us forward.”