An outrageously good combined XIII of St Helens and Wigan Warriors stars

Ben Olawumi
Love Rugby League's combined XIII of St Helens and Wigan Warriors stars, Liam Farrell

Love Rugby League's combined XIII of St Helens and Wigan Warriors stars, captained by Liam Farrell (right)

Ahead of the traditional Good Friday derby between the pair, we pick out a combined Dream XIII made up of St Helens and Wigan Warriors stars.

Only players currently available for selection have been considered and chosen, meaning that the likes of Saints’ James Bell (suspended) and Wigan‘s Mike Cooper (injured) were never in contention.

So, without further ado, our combined XIII…

1. Jack Welsby (St Helens)

Jack Welsby St Helens Alamy
Jack Welsby scoring a try for St Helens

We kick things off with Welsby, who gets the nod over Jai Field. The Saints full-back is a truly remarkable talent, and it’s hard to believe he’s only just turned 23.

A Super League without him isn’t something we want to be a part of! Four Super League tries so far this season and three assists, he’s electric going forward and plays a big part in why the Red V‘s defence is so strong too.

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2. Tommy Makinson (St Helens)

Tommy Makinson St Helens Alamy
Tommy Makinson in action for St Helens

Two from two so far for Friday’s hosts with Makinson, who is likely to be playing in his last-ever Good Friday derby between the pair. You don’t play in so many of them over as many years as the veteran has without being at the absolute top of your game.

Only two men have ever scored more points in a game between the two clubs than Makinson in June last year (18), and while Abbas Miski is doing a fine job for Wigan, we had to choose the Red V’s #2.

3.  Jake Wardle (Wigan Warriors)

Jake Wardle
Jake Wardle in action for Wigan Warriors

This pick was a no-brainer. Wardle, in our opinion, is the best centre knocking about in Super League and Wigan tying him down with a new long-term deal earlier this week was very astute business on their behalf.

The Cherry & Whites‘ #3 enjoyed a stunning debut year with them in 2023, putting in a man of the match showing in the Grand Final to win the Harry Sunderland Trophy, and has continued that form on into 2024. Consistently an 8/10 if not higher, and his ability to influence in attack is unmatched in the competition.

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4. Mark Percival (St Helens)

Mark Percival
Mark Percival lines up a conversion for St Helens

Having had to sit on the sidelines for the last couple of weeks suspended after his red card against Salford, we’re sure Percival will be raring to go on his return come Good Friday, and he gets into our combined team.

The 29-year-old – much like Makinson – has been there, done it all, and got the t-shirts to show for it. As well as all the silverware and accolades, twice in his career he’s scored a brace of tries against Wigan, a man who stands up to be counted on the big occasions and a man we want in at #4. He’d be taking conversions for us, as well.

5. Liam Marshall (Wigan Warriors)

Liam Marshall Wigan Warriors Alamy
Wigan Warriors winger Liam Marshall

So far this season, youngster Jon Bennison has done a sterling job for Saints, but he was never going to get into our combined XIII over Wigan flier Marshall who remains one of the best wingers in the competition.

Marshall has a good habit of scoring tries full stop, but his knack of getting them in big games at big moments in those games is probably unrivalled. As we start Round 6 (Rivals Round), only one player has more Super League tries this year, and that’s with Wigan having played a game less than every club barring Leigh. It was always going to be the Cherry & Whites’ #5.

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6. Bevan French (Wigan Warriors)

Bevan French
Wigan Warriors’ Bevan French warms up ahead of a game in 2024

In at stand-off is overseas star French, one of the most exciting players in Super League. The Australian oozes class and makes everything he does look effortless, producing many memorable moments during his time in the British game to date.

In the three Super League games he’s played so far this year, French has got his name on the scoresheet, and grabbed an assist last time out in the league against Salford too. A player we had to have in this team.

7. Harry Smith (Wigan Warriors)

Harry Smith
Harry Smith in action for Wigan Warriors

Now this is where we might take some stick, particularly from those of a Saints persuasion. Leaving Jonny Lomax out wasn’t an easy decision in the slightest, but Lomax is definitely better in the stand-off role than half-back itself, and Smith‘s connection with French – in our opinion – would make for better viewing.

The Warriors academy product established himself on the international scene at the back end of last year, that on the back of his best season for Wigan at club level to date. He’s a big reason as to why Matt Peet‘s side score as many points as they do, and isn’t afraid to get stuck in in defence either. Smith makes the cut in this 13 for us, and if that upsets you, we can only apologise.

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8. Alex Walmsley (St Helens)

Alex Walmsley
St Helens’ Alex Walmsley celebrates a try

Tying it up at four players apiece, and trust us that isn’t why this man has been chosen, is Walmsley. An absolute stalwart of the game and another who has won everything there is to win with Saints, currently in his 12th season with the club working under former team-mate Paul Wellens.

Not many forwards make metres like Big Al, his 587 so far this season in Super League an astonishing number, but one you’d believe without seeing any evidence. The stalwart will turn 34 next month, and is aging like a fine wine. A truly tremendous prop.

9. Daryl Clark (St Helens)

Daryl Clark
St Helens’ Daryl Clark in action

Hooker was amongst the most difficult positions for us to pick. Just like Wigan boss Peet, we’re huge admirers of Brad O’Neill, but Peet has also singled out opposite number Clark for some praise in the build-up to this week’s clash, and it’s the Saints #9 who takes the spot in our combined team.

There was huge expectation on Clark’s shoulders when he joined the Red V in the off-season to take James Roby’s place. Nobody was ever going to fully fill that hole, and nobody probably ever will because Roby was and is the G.O.A.T. BUT, Clark has done exceptionally well at giving it a good go so far. He’s been instrumental for Saints so far this year, and will continue to be, no doubt.

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10. Luke Thompson (Wigan Warriors)

Luke Thompson Wigan Warriors Alamy
Wigan Warriors prop Luke Thompson in action

The only man in this team to have played for both clubs is Thompson, one of Wigan’s off-season recruits, with the Warriors luring the big prop back over from the NRL.

Before heading Down Under, Thompson won two Super League titles with Saints, and it would be no surprise to see him take his tally up to three with the Warriors this year. He’s had the impact we all expected him to since returning, but you feel there’s still some gears for him to go through, which is a measure of just how good he is. We wouldn’t want to be trying to stop him!

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11. Matt Whitley (St Helens)

Matt Whitley
Matt Whitley in action for St Helens

We’ll preface this choice by being open and honest – if he wasn’t suspended this weekend, James Bell would have been taking our #11 spot. But, team-mate Whitley is a more than capable deputy and we’ll slot him in as a top-quality replacement.

Whitley has shone since returning to his boyhood club in the off-season. That should come as no surprise given what we saw from him during the seasons years he spent with Catalans Dragons. We’re pretty confident in his abilities given what we’ve seen so far this season in Super League alone, where he’s impressed in both defence and attack, scoring three tries and making 127 tackles.

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12. Liam Farrell (Wigan Warriors – captain)

Liam Farrell
Wigan Warriors captain Liam Farrell

Like the team-mates we’ve included so far, there was no way we were ever not going to include Farrell, who captains Wigan and would captain our team as well. As a leader, we really do struggle to think of anyone better, certainly at least in Super League.

The 33-year-old’s ability to rally a team when the going gets tough, leading from the front and setting the standards is truly remarkable. That grit and determination to keep a team out would honestly have been enough on its own to earn a spot in this combined XIII, but he’s pretty handy at picking the right pass near the line at the other end too. A giant of a man among men.

13. Morgan Knowles (St Helens)

Morgan Knowles
St Helens’ Morgan Knowles in action

We round this 13 off with Knowles slotting in at loose, which – for the sake of confirming it – swings the tally of players selected in Saints’ favour by 7-6. Knowles more than deserves his spot, an absolute powerhouse who – like many of this forward pack – takes some stopping when he gets going!

There aren’t many better knocking about in the position across the whole of Super League, that’s a fact, reaching the milestone of 200 appearances in the Red V at the end of last season just before his 27th birthday. As well as all the technical and pure physical ability, any team needs that bit of aggression about it too, and Knowles certainly adds a notch on that scale.

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