Super League semi-finals: Wigan Warriors vs Leeds Rhinos talking points and team news | Rugby League News

Wigan and Leeds go head-to-head for a place in the Grand Final

Wigan and Leeds go head-to-head for a place in the Grand Final

We look at what is being said and team news ahead of Friday’s first Betfred Super League semi-final as Wigan Warriors and Leeds Rhinos face off for a place in the Grand Final…

Leeds Rhinos: Smith leans on previous play-off experience

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Wigan and Leeds meeting in the inaugural Super League Grand Final and now they find themselves facing off for a place in the latest edition of the showpiece game at Old Trafford.

On that occasion, the Warriors triumphed 10-4 although the intervening years have seen the Rhinos enjoy more success in the Grand Final, being crowned champions eight times in rugby league’s summer era compared to the Cherry and Whites’ five.

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Back in 1998, Wigan and Leeds finished first and second respectively in the regular season standings and while Friday’s hosts secured a home semi-final by finishing in the top two again, Leeds find themselves having to come from fifth to win the title and took the first step with a 20-10 win away to last year’s runners-up Catalans Dragons in the Eliminators.

First-year head coach Rohan Smith knows all about what it takes to win in the play-offs from his career though, including guiding Norths Devils to Queensland Cup glory back home in Australia last year, and is grateful for those experiences as he tries to steer Leeds back to the top.

“I’ve been around play-offs in all different competitions I’ve coached in,” Smith said. “I’ve been around it for most of my life which is fortunate enough to be there and take each opportunity as its own one as well.

“It’s a great achievement for any club which makes the Grand Final every year and it’s down to four of us to take the opportunity which is there.

Leeds Rhinos head coach Rohan Smith says his team will be up against a rejuvenated Wigan Warriors side ahead of their Betfred Super League play-off semi-final.

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Leeds Rhinos head coach Rohan Smith says his team will be up against a rejuvenated Wigan Warriors side ahead of their Betfred Super League play-off semi-final.

Leeds Rhinos head coach Rohan Smith says his team will be up against a rejuvenated Wigan Warriors side ahead of their Betfred Super League play-off semi-final.

“You never know when the next one is coming and any season when you’re in the Grand Final is an achievement.”

The Rhinos head to the DW Stadium still without Rhyse Martin after their latest appeal against the goal-kicking second row’s two-game ban failed, while Morgan Gannon suffered a concussion against the Dragons and joins Harry Newman, Ash Handley and David Fusitu’a on the sidelines.

Leeds head to Wigan having beaten this year’s Betfred Challenge Cup winners 42-12 in July, but Smith is not reading anything into that result from the sides’ most recent meeting.

“It’s more like who we are as a team has evolved since that time,” Smith said. “We certainly took some confidence out of the result and performance, but that was a long time ago.

“We did some things really well; we defended really well and connected really well that day and a few things went our way which made the scoreline as it was.

Highlights of July's Betfred Super League match between Leeds Rhinos and Wigan Warriors.

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Highlights of July’s Betfred Super League match between Leeds Rhinos and Wigan Warriors.

Highlights of July’s Betfred Super League match between Leeds Rhinos and Wigan Warriors.

“It’s certainly a fresh start and we’re expecting Wigan to be at their best.”

Wigan Warriors: Powell aims for a memorable 250

It is just over 10 years since Sam Powell made a try-scoring debut for Wigan in a 48-10 victory over Hull FC and on Friday he reaches the milestone of 250 games for his hometown club.

Hooker Powell, then playing as a half-back, remembers his debut well but his focus is now on a return to Super League’s biggest stage – one where he has already tasted glory twice.

Reaching a notable appearance mark on his return from a foot injury is a proud moment for the 30-year-old too, although him main focus is on ensuring his team are lining up against either St Helens or Salford Red Devils at Old Trafford on September 24.

Milestone man Powell’s Grand Final aim

We hear from Sam Powell ahead of his 250th appearance as Wigan take on Leeds for a Super League Grand Final place.

“It’s great for me personally and the club means a lot to me,” Powell said. “It’s been everything to me and my family, so individually it’s a great milestone.

“It’s obviously a bigger occasion for the club itself and to get to another Grand Final would be awesome and one I’d be excited to be hopefully playing in. As long as we play well, we deserve to be there.

“It’s going to be a tough game, as all semi-finals are. Leeds are a great team, a great club, and we’ve just got to concentrate for these 80 minutes and give it our best shot.”

Powell’s inclusion is the only change to Wigan’s 21-man squad from their final game of the regular season, replacing Cade Cust who is out with the elbow injury he suffered in the 48-4 win at home to Catalans two weeks ago.

Wigan have been working hard to reconnect with their fanbase

Wigan have been working hard to reconnect with their fanbase

Recent matches at the DW Stadium have been notable for the scenes of interaction between the club’s players and fans, and head coach Matt Peet believes that is a sign the Warriors’ community work is yielding positive results.

“You do feel it’s paying off,” Peet said. “When you come to the DW at the moment there is a good atmosphere and the early signs are this week we’re going to get a good turnout and we know Leeds will come in numbers.

“I’m expecting a classic play-off night.”

Named squads

Wigan Warriors: Bevan French, Jake Bibby, Liam Marshall, Thomas Leuluai, Brad Singleton, Sam Powell, Patrick Mago, Willie Isa, John Bateman, Morgan Smithies, Kaide Ellis, Harry Smith, Oliver Partington, Ethan Havard, Liam Byrne, Kai Pearce-Paul, Joe Shorrocks, Jai Field, Abbas Miski, Brad O’Neill, Mike Cooper.

Leeds Rhinos: Liam Sutcliffe, Blake Austin, Aidan Sezer, Mikolaj Oledzki, Kruise Leeming, Matt Prior, James Bentley, Zane Tetevano, Brad Dwyer, Richie Myler, Cameron Smith, Bodene Thompson, Tom Briscoe, Sam Walters, Jarrod O’Connor, James Donaldson, Corey Johnson, Muizz Mustapha, Liam Tindall, Jack Sinfield, Zak Hardaker.

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