Assessing Wigan Warriors’ potential Jai Field replacements after injury setback

Aaron Bower

Wigan Warriors have been dealt a significant injury blow with the news star fullback Jai Field is set to miss up to two months on the sidelines with a hamstring problem.

Field’s injury is more significant than first feared, giving Matt Peet a fairly sizeable headache when it comes to mapping out potential replacements.

Some are mere straight swaps for Field, and would provide less of a rotation headache. But others would cause Wigan to think about drafting in options across a number of replacements. Here’s the potential scenarios Peet may well be considering in the days ahead, as the Warriors plot a medium-term plan to cope without their fullback.

The straight swap

Ryan Hampshire Wigan Warriors Alamy

Peet could be tempted to keep rotation to a bare minimum – especially with this Friday’s game against London on the horizon in the short-term.

That would mean bringing someone from outside the 17 in to facilitate Field’s injury, and the obvious contender is Ryan Hampshire, who played there in the victory against Warrington Wolves the week before Wembley. Hampshire was at half-back for last week’s win at Castleford, but is arguably much more comfortable at fullback.

It would also be extremely unfair to judge Hampshire’s performance on that game and assume that is the sole extent of his ability; players need to play regularly, and Hampshire being dropped in and out of the team sporadically will not have done his form any favours.

A run of games, especially against teams closer to the bottom of Super League in the short-term, could be exactly the injection of confidence he needs if he’s to have a regular run in the side with Field injured.

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The ideal candidate

Bevan French is, many people would argue, Wigan’s second-best fullback after Field. Yes, he’s spent time on the wing and has now found a home at stand-off alongside Harry Smith in the halves, but French has also had plenty of success at fullback.

So the logical move would be to simply put him back there and hope he slots back into the role like he did against Castleford last weekend on a fairly regular basis – but then again, they would have to find a replacement for him at half-back.

They have options. Adam Keighran could play six when he returns from suspension, or Peet could decide this is the time to properly blood young half-back Jack Farrimond. Again, with no disrespect to Wigan’s upcoming opponents, it would be a soft introduction to life as a Super League player compared to some more menacing fixtures further down the line.

They could also put Kruise Leeming at half-back as a makeshift option: something he did for Leeds in the past.

French is the best fullback Wigan have available right now – but it’s just how much Peet wants to reshuffle his attacking spine.

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The left-field option

Zach Eckersley
Wigan Warriors young gun Zach Eckersley scores their first try in the 2024 Challenge Cup final triumph against Warrington Wolves

Although he’s made his breakthrough into the Wigan first-team as a centre, Zach Eckersley does have experience of playing fullback in Wigan’s academy during his formative years.

It would be a gamble, putting a player with only five senior appearances to his name in at fullback. But Eckersley has shown he’s got immense talent and with Keighran back from suspension in the near future, he could be an option in the coming weeks with Field out injured.

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