Few names are more synonymous with the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup than Shaun Wane. A key part of the Wigan Warriors side which won the tournament four times between 1985 and 1990, he led the club to a record 19th cup crown in 2013 as head coach of his beloved Warriors.
Ladbrokes News chatted with the Riversiders’ boss ahead of Wigan’s upcoming Challenge Cup semi-final against Hull FC, with fast starts, squad selection, and strong players among the topics.
Ladbrokes News: Wigan began this season’s Ladbrokes Challenge Cup campaign with that 54-4 win over Dewsbury in the sixth round. You played a strong side there, with the likes of Josh Charnley and Oliver Gildart starting. How impressed were you with the professional job your side did?
Shaun Wane: I was very impressed with our performance. The reason I put such a strong team out is because the Challenge Cup means so much to us. It’s a huge part of Wigan Warriors history, having won the trophy 19 times. It’s vital that we continue to do well in the competition.
I feel the side I chose showed Dewsbury the respect they deserve because beating them is a tough ask. We pressed them right from the start and were very efficient in how we took the game to them. I was very impressed with the attitude of all my players.
LN: You were very quick out of the blocks again in the quarter-final win over Castleford. Has starting games with a high intensity and trying to build a big early lead been something you’ve focused on this season?
SW: It’s been a major part of our focus, yes. Especially so for this game, because Castleford knocked us out in the quarter-finals back in 2014, and that loss really stung. So we were determined to try and put them on the back foot straight away, and getting that victory meant a huge amount to everyone at the club.
Cas are an excellent side, with some very dangerous players, and they always put in a good performance at the DW Stadium. We had to focus on getting a high completion rate and competing with them physically, and doing so gave us the win.
LN: You face Hull FC in the semi-finals. You’ve had two exciting games against them already this season – with both sides winning one apiece. How do you think you’ll set your side out to try and beat them again?
SW: The most important battle with Hull is handling their big men. They’re a big, physical side, and they’ve added extra quality by buying some excellent overseas players.
But the foothold they get in games is most often down to them being such a physically strong side, so we need to be smart in contact and really challenge their toughest players.
LN: So who do you think will be your key men in terms of stifling Hull’s most powerful players?
SW: The likes of Lee Mossop, Ben Flower, and Frank-Paul Nu’uausala will be hugely important against a side like Hull. They’re some of the most imposing guys in our side, but it’s a team effort. Every one of our guys has to be tough in the tackle in a game like this.
LN: Wigan’s home form has been excellent recently, with four wins in the last five at DW Stadium. How important do you think the passionate Wigan faithful will be for this crucial clash at Keepmoat Stadium?
SW: Hull certainly have the advantage in terms of location, with the game being in Doncaster. It’s just down the road for them, whereas we’ll be travelling nearly two hours to get there on a Friday night.
But the Wigan fans always give our players a huge boost. They always come out in big numbers to support the team and they’ll find a way to get to the game – that’s true wherever and whenever we play!
At the big games, where it’s often very tight, they’re a massive advantage to us and can make a real difference in making sure we get the win.
LN: Hull are battling you for top spot in Super League, so I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of them this season. How impressed have you been with Hull so far this season – and who do you think have been their star men?
SW: They’ve been excellent this year. [Hull FC head coach] Lee Radford has obviously brought in some real talents from the NRL, as well as good local players, and that’s a blend which is working really well for him.
Marc Sneyd and Scott Taylor are two who spring to mind. Mark’s kicking game makes him a key man, and someone we absolutely need to control.
LN: Finally, Wigan and Hull have two of the best defensive records in English rugby right now, and obviously some classy attacking players too. Do you think this will be a game to excite the neutrals, as well as both sets of fans?
SW: Without a doubt. It will be a great contest to watch for all rugby league fans. I’m sure ourselves and Hull will produce an end-to-end game, and both sides defend superbly and offer a lot of threat in attack, so it has the makings of a classic.
Wigan are 8/11 favourites for victory, with 6/5 for a Hull FC win and 18/1 for the draw.
And it’s 13/2 for the Warriors to emulate their narrow victory away to the Airlie Birds in March and win by 1-5 points.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.