Daily Star

Ultimate Warriors



WIGAN prop Mike Cooper reckons the gloves will be off in the World Club Challenge – and Super League’s card frenzy temporaril­y ditched.

All eyes are on Saturday’s showdown between Warriors and NRL premiers Penrith at a sold-out DW Stadium.

Wigan hope to conquer the world for a record-equalling fifth time.

But they have a nervous wait to see if England scrum-half Harry Smith features.

He was sin-binned by referee Tom Grant for a tip-tackle in their Super League opener at Castleford on Saturday.

The match review panel will decide today whether Smith warrants a ban.

Tigers boss Craig Lingard claimed video referee Jack Smith recommende­d a red card at the weekend, only to be ignored by the on-field official.

But Castleford prop Liam Watts was sent off for a hugely contentiou­s head contact on Tyler Dupree in the 28th minute.

That left Lingard fuming and caused widespread uproar across the sport as officials continue to clamp down on high tackles under new rulings. Over the opening round of the Super League season, there were four red cards and nine sin-binnings.

But England forward Cooper, who played with NRL outfit St George Illawarra for three years, hopes Wigan and star-studded Penrith will be given extra leeway.

He said: “You’d like to think the World Club Challenge will be a bit of a throwback.

“I think it will be. No one has said that. But normally these games are a bit of a throwback and played under internatio­nal rules.

“There are all the safety elements we need to have in the game. And for all the right reasons.

“But this game needs to be a big one. That’s what we’re hoping for at Wigan.”

Cooper has timed his race for fitness to perfection after making his comeback from a serious knee injury in the Castleford win.

He came off the bench and said: “It was great. It’s been a long time. It’s been over 10 months since I last played Super League.

“I was a bit nervous. I played the reserves last week but this was my first proper run-out. And the knee’s held up alright. After the lads won the Grand Final, I had the World Club Challenge earmarked as my comeback game and something to focus on. “I’ve got to get into the team but we’ll see what happens. It’s just going to make for an exciting week.”

Experience­d Cooper will almost certainly play, especially as fellow England front-row Luke Thompson is ruled out after failing an HIA at Castleford.

Wigan coach Matty Peet also has doubts over classy hooker Kruise Leeming after the debutant left Wheldon Road on crutches.

Warriors trailed 4-2 when Watts was dismissed but then scored 30 unanswered points with Liam Marshall (2), Bevan French, Patrick Mago and Leeming scoring tries.

 ?? ?? IN THE THICK OF IT: Mike Cooper takes the game to Cas as (above) Harry Smith converts a penalty
IN THE THICK OF IT: Mike Cooper takes the game to Cas as (above) Harry Smith converts a penalty

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