Wigan coach Adrian Lam is still drawing confidence from his side’s agonising Grand Final defeat by St Helens as the old foes prepare to do battle in Super League’s Rivals Round at the DW Stadium.
The clubs met at the Totally Wicked Stadium six weeks ago, when Saints won 24-6, but that was against a battered and bruised Wigan team and in front of a restricted crowd of 4,000.
The Warriors are guaranteed Super League’s biggest attendance of the season on Friday night and Lam is optimistic his side can gain revenge for their last-gasp 8-4 loss at an empty KCOM Stadium in November.
“I’ll never forget it, it will never go away,” Lam said.
“It would have been better if we had won but you know that in the biggest game you played the team that’s been in the best form over the last two or three years and took them to the wire and could easily have won.
“So that gives you hope that you can do it in the big matches and this is as big as it gets this year.”
Wigan are in fourth place, having played more games than any other team in the league, and go into Friday’s top-four clash on the back of a disappointing loss at Hull KR.
But Saints and Warrington also suffered surprise defeats last weekend to keep alive the Warriors’ hopes of a top-two finish.
“I guess three of the top four teams losing has levelled it off,” Lam said. “We do have a really tough draw but our destiny is in our own hands.
“We’ve identified this as the hardest part of the year. It suits us though with the plan we have.
“We’re working really hard on finishing the season on our terms and putting some form together in the remaining six games – if we can do that, the confidence will be there.
“Last Friday was disappointing for us and I made that clear with everyone. I’m looking for a response that’s needed on Friday.”
Saints coach Kristian Woolf is also hoping for a reaction from his team to a first home defeat by Castleford for 29 years but says he does not need to lift them for the derby.
“This is a game we don’t need to build up,” he said. “It’s an event in itself. It’s a game that the whole town gets excited for.
“We’ve had a couple of local derbies over the last couple of years but it’s the first time with an opportunity for a full house and everyone is looking forward to that.
“The intensity in training goes up a level and, on the back of the fact weren’t where we wanted to be last weekend, that usually leads to a really good week’s preparation.”
Wigan’s England forward John Bateman, who missed the Hull KR defeat through illness, is especially relishing the derby, having spent the two previous seasons in Australia.
He also sat out the defeat at the Totally Wicked Stadium due to injury.
“It was probably the first game I looked for in the fixture list when I came back,” he said.
“After missing out on the first one at their place, it makes this even more special.
“You just want to take someone’s head off, don’t you? When it’s Wigan-Saints you just want to get stuck into each other.”