SAINTS hooker James Roby insists his club’s clash with Wigan has lost none of its appeal, as evidenced by a step up in preparation.
”It’s fair to say it’s a bit more intense,” Roby said. “When you’re playing Wigan there is that added derby atmosphere, everybody is probably hyped up a bit more.
“You definitely get people reminding you wherever you go, especially living locally you can’t avoid it. It’s what you come to expect and it’s great, it adds to the occasion.
“They never really change, they always stir up the same emotions in myself personally and the team and the town. It’s been said millions of times over the years, it’s a massive game.”
Wigan coach Shaun Wane added a strange twist to the rivalry between the two clubs with his revelation that he is thinking of going on holiday to Scotland with St Helens boss Keiron Cunningham, but friendships will be cast aside for 80 minutes at Langtree Park on Good Friday.
“Both clubs have a lot of respect for each other and have a similar ethos on promoting youngsters so we’re very similar in many ways but that just adds to the spice of making it a must-win game,” Wane said.
Both clubs will be looking to bounce back from below-par performances, with Wigan reeling from a first home defeat for 21 months.
“It’s two teams that are a little bit disappointed with their performances this year but at the end of the day, whether we’re top or bottom or vice-versa, all of that goes out of the window,” Wane added. “It’s just a local derby where both sets of fans are very passionate.”
As tradition dictates, the Sky cameras will be at Langtree Park for the clash of the teams lying third and fourth in the table but there will be plenty of interest 10 miles down the road at the Halliwell Jones Stadium, where surprise leaders Widnes take on neighbours Warrington, the only club with a 100 per cent record so far this year.
The Vikings, top on points difference, are on a high following their first away win over Wigan for 11 years which demonstrated their sensational early-season form is no fluke and brought more comparisons with Leicester City’s fairytale assault on the Premier League.
“I can’t remember a Cheshire derby as big as this one whilst I’ve been here,” said Widnes coach Denis Betts, the former Wigan forward who took charge of the club in 2010 when they were still in the Championship.
Wolves coach Tony Smith said: “They’re doing well, it sets up a nice derby game.”
There will be full houses at Langtree Park and the Halliwell-Jones Stadium and tickets are almost as scarce for the 217th Hull derby at the Lightstream Stadium.
Coaches James Webster (Hull KR) and Lee Radford (Hull FC) captained their clubs in the first Super League derby in 2007 and the former has a clear message for his players as he prepares to take charge of his first derby.
“I’ll be telling them to go out and enjoy it,” Webster said. “How many times in your career do you get to play in games as big as this?”
Elsewhere, Salford will be aiming for a fifth successive home win over Catalans Dragons and Huddersfield are going for a seventh straight victory over bottom club Wakefield and a fifth in a row at Belle Vue.