Stefan Ratchford: Warrington Wolves captain aims for glory against hometown club Wigan Warriors | Rugby League News

Marc Bazeley

@MarcBazeley

There will be no split loyalties for Warrington skipper Stefan Ratchford when the Betfred Super League leaders host his hometown club Wigan on Friday night; watch the first-versus-second clash in Super League live on Sky Sports Arena from 7.30 pm (kick-off 8 pm)

Last Updated: 13/04/23 9:53 am

Stefan Ratchford is looking forward to Friday's top-of-the-table Super League showdown between Warrington and Wigan

Stefan Ratchford is looking forward to Friday’s top-of-the-table Super League showdown between Warrington and Wigan

There is nothing unusual in Stefan Ratchford expecting to have friends at the Halliwell Jones Stadium on Friday night, except that on this occasion they will be cheering on the opposition rather than the Warrington Wolves captain and his team-mates.

Although he has spent most of his 15-year professional career with the Wolves, Ratchford is very much a Wiganer, being born in the town and playing junior rugby with Wigan St Cuthberts and Wigan St Patricks.

The 34-year-old knows all about the rivalry between the Wolves and Wigan Warriors too, with this Friday’s meeting, live on Sky Sports in¬†front of an expected sell-out crowd having the added spice of pitting the Betfred Super League’s first and second-placed teams against each other.

Ratchford knows full well his friends from back home will be firmly on the Cherry and White side of the divide as the visitors aim to end Warrington’s unbeaten start, although the former England international will be quite happy if he helps spoil their night too.

“Whenever Wigan and Warrington play it’s special for me, especially being a Wigan lad,” Ratchford told Sky Sports.

“You tend to get quite a few people in the crowd I know, which adds some extra enjoyment when I’ve got mates throwing abuse at me.

“If anything, with it being Wigan and knowing there are friends in the crowd probably makes it more enjoyable when you look up at the end of the game and see some familiar faces.

Highlights from the Super League match between Catalans Dragons and Warrington Wolves.

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Highlights from the Super League match between Catalans Dragons and Warrington Wolves.

Highlights from the Super League match between Catalans Dragons and Warrington Wolves.

“You can give them a wave – and hopefully have a smile on the back of a victory.”

Ratchford could hardly have asked for a better start to his time as Wolves captain, being officially appointed to the role over the winter after deputizing as skipper last year while the now-departed Jack Hughes was sidelined due to injury.

Despite being top of the Super League with eight wins from eight though, it has not been plain sailing for Warrington. They had to fight back from 20-6 down at half-time to beat Salford Red Devils in March, while their most recent win away to Catalans Dragons saw them triumph 20-14 through a late try from Josh Thewlis despite having Gil Dudson sent off

Injury and suspension have affected availability too. Dudson will now serve a five-match ban after that red card in Perpignan, coming just after high-profile winter signing Josh McGuire finally made his Super League bow after missing the first seven games due to a ban of his own.

Whenever Wigan and Warrington play it’s special for me, especially being a Wigan lad. You tend to get quite a few people in the crowd I know, which adds some extra enjoyment when I’ve got mates throwing abuse at me.

Stephen Ratchford

Given his reputation for being a man for all positions though, Ratchford has lined up as left center in each of Warrington’s games, with Peter Mata’utia the man head coach Powell has turned to when needing to fill gaps in the line-up.

“I was laughing a couple of weeks ago with Peter Mata’utia and said ‘I’m so glad you’ve taken over that role now’,” Ratchford, who is playing at the center regularly for the first time since the early seasons of his career at Salford, said.

“Pete’s the Mr. Fix-It and he slots in when needed, but it’s something I’ve done all my career and will do if needed if that’s going to be the most beneficial for the team – but at the moment Pete’s doing that role and he’s doing a fantastic job.

“I’m actually really enjoying my time out there as a center and as left edge, we’re doing quite well at the moment.

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“I’ve not played there a week on week for a good number of years, so I’m still learning the position as well, but I’m really enjoying myself out there at the moment.”

Friday’s clash with Wigan comes in the middle of a run of games against three of the other expected title contenders, following on from the showdown with Catalans and preceding a clash with another of their old rivals in reigning champions St Helens.

The Warriors make the journey to the Halliwell Jones Stadium having moved up to second with a 14-6 win over Saints in front of over 24,000 fans in Rivals Round, the first time they have triumphed in the Good Friday Derby for six years.

Ratchford acknowledges the Wolves could hardly have had a much tougher three-game block of fixtures but knows nonetheless what a win over last year’s Betfred Challenge Cup winners and play-off semi-finalists would do for the team.

Highlights of the Betfred Super League match between Wigan Warriors and St Helens.

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Highlights of the Betfred Super League match between Wigan Warriors and St Helens.

Highlights of the Betfred Super League match between Wigan Warriors and St Helens.

“I’m not sure who put that fixture schedule together to go Catalans, Wigan, and St Helens all within 12 days of each other,” Ratchford said. “It’s a big task and a tough run of games.

“Every game is a tough game, but when you put those three back-to-back, especially on six-day turnarounds it makes it that bit tougher.

“It’s looking like it’s going to be a sell-out at the HJ on Friday night, so hopefully we can get the victory and take that into St Helens next week.”

Watch Warrington Wolves take on Wigan Warriors in the first-versus-second clash in the Betfred Super League, live on Sky Sports Arena on Friday from 7.30 pm (kick-off 8 pm). Stream the 2023 Betfred Super League season on NOW TV.