Cunningham: We have the bragging rights

James Roby crashes through the Wigan defence
James Roby crashes through the Wigan defence

On the surface, there is not an awful lot riding on Wigan’s visit to Langtree Park on Friday night.

The Super 8s, with two rounds to go, has already shut the hatch on Castleford in fifth place, the top four has been decided.

Sure, who gets home advantage in the play-offs needs to be sorted out, and the outcome on Friday will heavily influence who travels where in the first week of October.

But no one’s season will be cut short by a bad result this week.

Ask Keiron Cunningham though – ask Warriors coach Shaun Wane – ask the fans… there is always a lot riding on Saints/Wigan.

Wane even told the press this week: “If this was a dead rubber, if they were top and we were bottom, I’d still be ready to go to war.”

It’s bragging rights until we play next time, as it stands we’ve got them at the minute so they’ll want to take them back off us

Keiron Cunningham

And the Wigan fans planning their invasion over Billinge Lump into the pubs of St Helens before heading to Langtree Park will agree.

Cunningham agrees too.

“It means a lot to Saints fans and Wigan fans doesn’t it,” he said.

“It’s bragging rights until we play next time, as it stands we’ve got them at the minute so they’ll want to take them back off us.

“Regardless of what the game means, points-wise or standings-wise, Wigan have still got a lot to play for, they’re shooting for top spot with Leeds and we’ve got the pride of Langtree Park at stake, we don’t want to give that up too easy.

“The two towns are divided by Billinge and some families are split on this week.”

Cunningham admits after last week’s free-scoring tie at Castleford, in which Saints secured a top four place, his players have been working on their defence ahead of Wigan’s visit.

The Warriors have the second best attack in Super League, and Cunningham expects his side to be tested much more sternly than when the sides met in June, with Saints winning 30-14.

“You have to be on your money against Wigan. They are quite ruthless in that department of attacking,” he said.

“Getting away to that good start is always big at this time of year and something we work really hard on. Defensively we’ve done a lot of work this week.

“Saints Wigan games are great games regardless of what the build up is.”

Despite a rivalry rich in history, a mutual respect exists between Cunningham and Warriors head coach Wane.

But the pair’s friendship didn’t make Wane’s side immune to some observations from Cunnigham on Wigan’s narrow win over an inexperienced Hull FC side last week.

“Wigan probably didn’t give Hull enough respect which we’re all guilty of,” explained the Saints boss.

“We’ve done that lots of times ourselves and we’ve got burned.

“I wasn’t surprised. I thought it was good entertainment and good viewing.

“Shaun is a great friend of mine, a great coach and he’s doing a great job across at Wigan.

“He would probably say the same about me. He’s as loyal and passionate about his club just as I am about my club.”

And the passion spilling from the terraces onto the pitch is why Friday’s game is still must-see viewing despite the small impact of the result.

Admitting his is a fan of Super 8s, Cunningham thinks they could still be tweaked to avoid the top four being decided so early.

“I’m sure things will get fine tuned a little bit after this,” he said.