Wigan away on Thursday night is by far the biggest challenge of the season to date for Hull FC, who will have to dig deep after two tough fixtures against Warrington and Wakefield.
The effort Brett Hodgson’s side have put into the defensive side of their game this year has been nothing short of outstanding, and it’ll have to go up another notch to get on top of a Wigan outfit who have won all five games so far.
Wigan are notoriously a tough nut to crack and they like Hull base everything off their defence. They are pass masters at it and they grind games out week by week. This is the challenge for Hull under Hodgson, to get to that level, and the next two weeks against the same opposition in both league and cup will give us a good indication to where they stand.
Effort has been unquestionable so far, and Hull have managed to find energy in moments of adversity when they needed it most. It might not be pretty, but that defensive drum will have to be banged all night to get a result here. Only the best will do against a Wigan side who tend to get the job done regardless of performance level, but if Hull do come up short, then they must go down fighting. The embarrassing heavy defeats seen over the past two to three years have to become a thing a past. Should Hull get beat, it’s how they get beat, but there’s still enough quality amongst them to win here too, but they’ll have to be pretty much perfect. They know that.
Whilst the defence is finding new found resilience and toughness, there’s still room for improvement in what Hull do with the ball. There’s a reason this side did the amount of defending they did in the past two games. Possession was handed back cheaply, but Hull also haven’t forced the issue enough. They need to put more pressure on the opposition when they get down their end to make them crack, especially against a resolute defence like Wigan who Hull have scored just six points past in the last two games against them.
Things have changed this year though, and whilst Josh Reynolds’ hamstring injury remains a huge blow, there’s enough quality still in Marc Sneyd, Ben McNamara and inform fullback Jake Connor, to pose a threat.
We can’t wait for this one. Hull’s start has been promising to say the least, they’ve showed a lot of fight and made numerous strides under Hodgson already, but this is the acid test.
Hull’s middles have been superb this year. From Scott Taylor, to Chris Satae, to Ligi Sao and Brad Fash, all have stood up whether starting or coming on off the bench. Don’t forget Joe Cator either, or Jordan Lane (both named in the recent England Knights squad) who’s been outstanding in the middle and the back row. That must continue at Wigan and they’re going to have to find some second wind. They’ve got to lay a platform up against a tough Wigan pack, but also defend dirty too.
It’s also a blow losing a player of the calibre of Josh Reynolds, but young half is learning on the go and has stepped into the side well so far. He’s a tidy player and a really matured one for his age. Putting Andre Savelio over for the first try against Wakefield last week, he’s starting to have more of an influence, with the defensive side to his game also improving. This is a big test for him against a quality opponent.
Jake the Snake
Jack Connor has been built up all week as the superstar he is. One of Super League’s big characters, he’s started the season in sensational form. If Hull are to win here, then they need their most creative player on song. Connor is a box of tricks, and he’ll be the key to unlocking Wigan on Thursday night, whether from his sleight of hand or trusty boot.
Hull Squad: 1. Jake Connor, 3. Carlos Tuimavave, 4. Josh Griffin, 5. Mahe Fonua, 7. Marc Sneyd, 8. Scott Taylor, 9. Danny Houghton, 10. Chris Satae, 11. Andre Savelio, 13. Ligi Sao, 14. Jordan Johnstone, 15. Joe Cator, 16. Jordan Lane, 17. Brad Fash, 19. Ben McNamara, 20. Jack Brown, 21. Adam Swift, 24. Cameron Scott, 26. Jude Ferreria, 27. Mitieli Vulikijapani, 28. Harvey Barron.
Wigan Squad: 1. Bevan French, 3. Zak Hardaker, 8. Brad Singleton, 9. Sam Powell, 10. Joe Bullock, 11. Willie Isa, 12. Liam Farrell, 13. John Bateman, 14. Oliver Partington, 15. Morgan Smithies, 17. Tony Clubb, 19. Liam Byrne, 20. Harry Smith, 21. Ethan Havard, 22. Jake Bibby, 23. Mitch Clark, 25. Joe Shorrocks, 28. Sam Halsall, 29. James McDonnell, 30. Umyla Hanley, 31. Jackson Hastings.
Josh Reynolds remains sidelined with a hamstring injury. His original diagnosis was four to six weeks. This is week four.
Manu Ma’u was reported to be out injured for three to four weeks with a calf tear. This is week three.
Josh Bowden hyperextended his elbow in the win over Wakefield and is also missing. He is still to see a specialist, but the original diagnosis is thought to be six weeks.
Long term absentees Jamie Shaul and Masimbaashe Matongo are still recovering from their knee injuries.
Bureta Faraimo is suspended for two matches.
Harvey Barron comes into the first team squad for the first time. The 17-year-old is a lightening quick winger that stands over 6 foot 3 tall.
Wigan are without Dominic Manfredi, Oliver Gildart, Liam Marshall, Jai Field, and Thomas Leuluai.
Last Five Meetings
2020: Wigan 29 Hull 2
2020: Hull 4 Wigan 36 (at Salford)
2020: Wigan 26 Hull 12
2019: Hull 14 Wigan 15
2019: Wigan 22 Hull 23
Super League Head to Head
Played 58 – Hull wins 12 – Wigan wins 44 – Draws 2
Heart says Hull, but head says Wigan by six points. Bring it on.
Radders is the Dadders
Castleford have confirmed former Hull FC boss Lee Radford as their new head coach for the 2022 season and beyond. Good luck Radders. Great to see him back in the game and we wish him well.