Warrington Wolves: Joe Philbin on channelling his inner ‘Tasmanian Devil’ and Sam Burgess’ influence

Drew Darbyshire
Joe Philbin Warrington Wolves Alamy

Joe Philbin (left) in action for Warrington Wolves in 2024

Warrington Wolves forward Joe Philbin says he is loving every minute of playing under head coach Sam Burgess, who was one of his rugby idols growing up.

Philbin returned to action on Sunday after passing his return to play concussion protocols, starting at prop, helping Warrington progress to the Challenge Cup semi-finals thanks to an impressive 31-8 win at St Helens.

The former England and Ireland international helped lay the platform with some powerful carries alongside his front-row partner James Harrison.

“It was Martin Gleeson actually, he wanted me to be the Tasmanian Devil, that’s what he said!” Philbin laughed when speaking to Love Rugby League after their win over St Helens.

“He says I’m at my best when I’m a Tasmanian Devil and I’m just running hard, so it kind of simplified my role a bit: don’t think about too much other than running hard and I feel like a simpler message for me is sometimes probably better.

“Obviously I had last week off with the head knock and we had a few boys missing, Ben Currie unfortunately picked up a bit of an injury last week so I went straight into the starting role which I was excited for. I had the bit between my teeth, Sam told me pretty early in the week and kind of challenged me a bit.

“I was excited for the game I feel like we did really well as a pack, Jordy Crowther and Jimmy Harrison, jeez, they’re playing well and I’m over the moon (to reach the semi-finals).”

Joe Philbin loving life playing under Warrington Wolves coach Sam Burgess

Joe Philbin Matty Ashton Warrington Wolves Alamy
Joe Philbin (left) and Matty Ashton (right) celebrate Warrington’s victory at St Helens

Philbin has rediscovered some of his best form under new coach Burgess, missing just one game so far in 2024 due to a head knock.

Philbin, a proud Warringtonian who is celebrating his testimonial year with his hometown club, feels there are ‘good vibes’ around the club, with the Burgess era off to an impressive start.

“He has put smiles on faces,” Philbin told Love Rugby League. “Imagine yourself finding out Sam Burgess is going to be your coach, you’re going to be buzzing aren’t you?

“For people in my age group now, he’s the best English forward that has ever been, for me. Finding out he was going to be our coach (was brilliant).

“I feel like he’s so good as a coach as well, I feel like he has got such a big future as a coach ahead.

“It’s good vibes, but he also keeps us very grounded, we’re at Round 7 in the season. I think we got a bit carried away last year thinking we’ve won a few games, but he keeps us very grounded, it’s a long process and we’re just enjoying the ride.”

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The Wire will meet Huddersfield Giants in the semi-finals of the Cup, with the latter having enjoyed a stunning 34-6 win over Super League leaders Catalans Dragons in the south of France on Saturday. World champions Wigan Warriors will face last year’s runners-up Hull KR in the other semi-final.

“Huddersfield a very good team,” Philbin added. “I think a few things probably didn’t click for them last year but they’ve got some great players and I think Watto (Ian Watson) plays a good style of rugby as well, so I’m excited for it.

“I would’ve taken any of them (remaining teams), you’re not bothered who you play, you have to beat the best to be the best. Saints, I reckon, have been the benchmark team for the last five years and I was quite happy to get them.. We got the job done, so now we’re onto the next one.”

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