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Sell out crowd for Saints' massive Good Friday test against reigning champions
THE sold-out notices in the ticket office window and the usual noises from over the hill add extra spice to what is already an enticing Good Friday clash at Langtree Park (12.15pm) – but Saints boss Nathan Brown is not getting swept away by the derby fever.
Saints’ 100 per cent start faces its acid test with the visit of last year’s double winners Wigan, but local bragging rights and two league points will not be the only thing on Brown’s mind.
The looming Challenge Cup trip to Leeds, which inconveniently comes after the Easter double header, is probably the main reason why Brown’s low key approach to Good Friday appears to be in stark contrast to the heart-on-sleeve approach of his Wigan counterpart Shaun Wane.
And with Wigan paired with minnows Hunslet in the next round, it could be that Wigan can afford to throw everything bar the kitchen sink at Saints.
And although the cool-headed Brown has to look beyond Wigan, his side will be primed to meet the Warriors head on and, if the previous weeks are anything to go by, will use the game as a springboard to continue their twin league and cup offensive.
Brown said: “We have had a big month of footy and are quite match hardened having played Leeds, then last year’s league leaders Huddersfield and one of the form teams of the comp in Cas.
“We are playing good quality teams every week which has its good sides.”
Although Saints coaches are inculcated with the words ‘beating Wigan’ from the moment they walk over the threshold Brown appears to be trying to take some of the emotion out of it. But by the same token knows his players will rip in.
He said: “It is just a game that one team is going to win and at the end of the day and then we will fight again on Easter Monday. That is the reality.
“I understand the rivalry between the two communities and the clubs, and also the playing groups with the Wigan kids and the Saints kids. I appreciate all that and know how it is. But the game itself, regardless of what I think, will have a huge intensity.
“The occasion means that the intensity will rise. At the end of the day it is a two point game and whoever wins it won’t mean you’ll win at Old Trafford or Wembley it just gives you bragging rights till we play Wigan next time.
“It will be good to see the ground full – and it should be too because both clubs are playing some good footy."
Willie Manu will be sidelined for between six and eight weeks with a broken and dislocated thumb and that experienced prop Anthony Laffranchi has suffered an arm injury that will keep him out for a month, Kyle Amor is still injured and wing Adam Swift is also missing for the game against Wigan.
Mark Flanagan and Lance Hohaia return after sitting out the trip to Castleford.
Gary Wheeler will feature over the Easter period, more than likely at Widnes, with Mark Percival having an outside chance of being available for the cup trip to Leeds the following week.