Bevan French says silent assassin Thomas Leuluai is key to Wigan’s bid to lift the League Leaders’ Shield for the first since since 2012 on Friday.
Kiwi veteran Leuluai is set to make his 300th appearance for the Warriors as they look to secure the victory that will seal top spot ahead of next week’s play-offs. Defeat would see Adrian Lam’s side slip down to third and into an elimination clash with Hull FC next weekend, handing local rivals St Helens first place in the process.
But French – fresh from signing a new contract for 2021 – says milestone man Leuluai’s form is cause for optimism. French said: “He’s doesn’t say much around training but when he does talk, he talks at the right time. Everyone really zones in and listens to what he says.
“He’s been one of the main reasons why we’ve been going good at the back end of the year. You might not see it on the ball – although he scored a really good try last week.
“But off the ball his organisation and the way he gets everyone into the right places is spot on. His good form will go a long way if we’re going to win the comp this year.”
Leuluai, 35, is out of contract and has not yet made a decision over his own future. But the Super League players that have run into his notorious big hits in defence during an 18-year career will be hoping retirement isn’t too far away.
French laughed: “I’m glad I’m on the same team as him. I try to stay away from him at training as well because he’s brutal.
“He’s been around for a long time, and even watching how he is in the gym room is crazy. He definitely transfers that onto the field when he hits people.”
Friday’s opponents Huddersfield still have have something to play for themselves – victory would secure seventh spot, putting them on stand-by for the play-offs if any team suffers a Covid-19 outbreak. But French is completely focused on the Warriors’ top spot goal.
He added: “We’ve spoken about it this week and it’s not been done here for eight years. That alone should be enough motivation to go into this week and back up the St Helens performance.
“We know that Huddersfield have got a good side and they can play good rugby league. But if we win we get the following week off and that could play a big part going into the back end of the season.”
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