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Thursday 20th Mar 20:00 Round: 6
Previous Super League Meetings
24 - 20
4 - 12
16 - 30
22 - 12
17 - 17
Fervour and passion are sure to be running high in Thursday night's Grand Final re-match at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.
There was little love lost between great rivals Wigan Warriors and Warrington Wolves before they met to decide the 2013 Super League title and events on the pitch at Old Trafford and then 12,000 miles away in Sydney have served to heighten the antagonism between them ahead of the round-six fixture.
Warrington were distinctly unhappy over the way they lost Stefan Ratchford and Joel Monaghan to injury as they let slip a 16-2 lead to go down 30-16, while Wigan have not forgotten the broken cheekbone suffered by stand-off Blake Green in the opening minutes of the final.
That tackle by Wolves second rower Ben Westwood earned him a one-match ban that forced him to sit out England's World Cup friendly against Italy but he insists it was part and parcel of the game.
"It was just one of those things," said Westwood, now Warrington's co-captain who went on to score a try in the final. "It was early in the game. I'm not sure whether I meant to hit him flush on the cheekbone but it happened. Hopefully he's forgotten about it.
"Things like that do tend to happen now and again in rugby league. Most of the time, you carry on playing and shake hands after the game and it's all forgotten about. Whether it will be I don't know but it doesn't bother me really."
Wigan coach Shaun Wane says Green has little recollection of the incident but he himself has vivid memories of the way his player recovered to produce a man-of-the-match performance.
"I don't think he remembers a thing," Wane said. "But it was a great night for him to show the toughness that he did, breaking his cheekbone in the first set and carrying on and getting the man of the match, scoring a great try in the process.
"He went up in my estimation in that game."
Warrington coach Tony Smith very definitely went down in Wane's estimation two months later when he put his side through a series of opposed training sessions with Sydney Roosters, replicating some of the tactics used by Wigan in Super League, during the club's pre-season training camp in Australia.
Smith made no secret of his willingness to help the Roosters prepare for their World Club Challenge duel with Wigan, insisting that he had more loyalty to the Sydney club and their head coach Trent Robinson than to Wane, who has attempted to play down talk of bad blood in the build-up to Thursday's game.
"I was upset at the time," Wane said. "He chose to do what he did and that's entirely up to him.
"I wouldn't have done it but it's forgotten, I'm just concentrating on making sure we get the two points on Thursday."
Westwood has defended his coach over the matter.
"I didn't think we did too much wrong," he said. "We decided to do a few training sessions with the Roosters.
"It was nothing major really. I'm sure Wigan were getting tips on the Roosters from South Sydney with (former Wigan coach Michael) Maguire being there.
"We benefited from the sessions just as much as they did, probably more so for us. We learned a lot from the Roosters."
It would appear Warrington were slow to put those lessons to good use for they lost their opening two matches of the First Utility Super League season before putting together a three-match winning run.
Wigan, too, have made a sluggish start but Wane believes both heavyweights are starting to find their form just in time for their re-match.
"They're a bit like us," he said. "We are both in a bit of transition, having lost some really important players with a lot of games under their belt.
"But hopefully we’re coming out of the back end of it, improving with every performance, and I think they are too. They were very good last week against Salford."
Westwood said: "We got off to a pretty poor start but we've been getting better each week and so have Wigan.
"Hopefully it will be a great spectacle. It's a game that the whole of Super League looks forward to. It's going to be pretty tasty."
In team news, Warrington expect to have Australian second rower Trent Waterhouse back in their side after sitting out the win at Salford Red Devils. Smith has also included threequarter Rhys Evans, who scored four tries in the round-four win at London Broncos.
Wane recalls forward Tony Clubb at the expense of Jordan James in the only change to the team that beat Hull KR. Skipper Sean O'Loughlin is still absent with a shoulder problem and hooker Michael McIlorum remains suspended.
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