Teenage rookies Luke Briscoe and Jordan Crowther will have their coach’s full backing when they make their Wakefield Trinity Wildcats debut away to double winners Wigan Warriors tomorrow.
Richard Agar has confirmed Briscoe, a 19-year-old utility player on loan from Leeds Rhinos, and England academy back-rower Crowther, aged 17, will both be in the 17 for the first time.
Injuries and suspensions have forced Agar to call on the pair much earlier than he had planned and the coach admitted facing the Super League and Challenge Cup holders is a daunting baptism of fire, but he insisted both youngsters are up to the task.
“It is the week after Jordan’s 17th birthday and he is going to get his Super League debut against Wigan away,” confirmed Agar, whose side are without suspended centre Dean Collis and have another three-quarter, Jimmy Keinhorst, still on the injured list.
“I am excited by it. Jordan is a super kid and along with Max Jowitt I think we have signed two very, very talented 16-year-olds this year.
“I would envisage Max, at some point this year, playing first grade as well.
“This has come a bit sooner than we anticipated for Jordan, but it is the situation and also the way some of our guys performed last week, and the way he has been performing in training.
“The progress in him has been outstanding. We know as a young player coming into a game like this he will probably make some mistakes, but we will wear them because we think the long-term bigger picture for Jordy is that he has the potential very much to turn into a top-line player.
“He is fearless and being selected for this game won’t faze him on little bit.”
Briscoe, who will be 20 next month, joined Leeds from Hull ahead of the 2012 season. A Featherstone Lions product, he is the younger brother of Leeds’ England winger Tom Briscoe.
“He is obviously in a massive Leeds squad,” Agar said. “He has come here knowing he’s probably going to be a bit closer to first-team action.
“What do we think Luke’s best position is? At this moment in time I don’t think I or (Leeds coach) Brian McDermott would be able to confidently answer that. A bit like Richard Whiting for Hull, he is one of those players you can play at centre, wing, stand-off, full-back, back-row and he will do a job for you.
“He has still got some growing to do and a bit of size to put on and probably longer term you would envisage him being a back-rower or loose-forward, but at this moment in time we still feel he has yet to physically reach his potential.” Wildcats have lost their opening two games in First Utility Super League and come in on the back of a dismal 23-10 home loss to Bradford Bulls last week.
But Wigan were beaten by Huddersfield Giants in their only league match so far and will be playing their first fixture since last Saturday’s World Club Challenge loss to Sydney Roosters in Australia.
Asked if it is a good time to face Wigan, Agar said: “Who knows? I have played them on the back of a World Club Challenge before at Hull and nearly got them that day.
“This is a different Wigan team and I don’t know what team they will pick, until I see the team sheet on game day. I don’t know whether Shaun (Wane, Wigan’s coach) is going to rest people or go full bore and get them back on the field as soon as he can.
“What I do know is whatever 17 names are on the list, they will be very fit and strong, incredibly tough and well-drilled. That’s what we’ve come to expect from Wigan’s team.”
As well as the inclusion of Briscoe and Crowther in the 19-man squad, Mattie Wildie and Kyle Trout are also called up.
Wigan are without seven members of the team that played in the World Club Challenge and are set to give a debut to Connor Farrell. Anthony Gelling and Iain Thornley form a new centre pairing in the absence of Darrell Goulding and Dan Sarginson and Ryan Hampshire steps in a full-back for Matty Bowen.
Wigan Warriors from: Bateman, Burgess, Burke, Clubb, C Farrell, Crosby, L Farrell, Flower, Gelling, Green, Hampshire, Hughes, Manfredi, McIlorum, O’Loughlin, Smith, Taylor, Thornley, L Tomkins.
Wakefield Wildcats from: Mathers, Fox, Sykes, Briscoe, Lyne, Sammut, Godinet, Raleigh, McShane, Smith, Lauitiiti, Kirmond, Trout, Crowther, Ryan, Tautai, Washbrook, Walshaw, Wildie.
Referee: Matthew Thomason (Warrington).
Kick-off: Tomorrow, 3pm.