Wakefield Trinity v Huddersfield Giants: Semi-final not on Ian Watson's mind as he focuses on 'most important game'

Ian Watson has stressed that Huddersfield Giants are treating tonight’s trip to Wakefield Trinity as the most important game of the season.

The Giants could be forgiven for having one eye on next week’s Challenge Cup date with Hull KR when they will aim to secure a place in the final for the first time since 2009.

But Watson is pushing any thoughts about the Elland Road semi-final firmly to the back of his mind after seeing his side fail to win any of their previous three Super League games.

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“You can say it’s the week before a semi-final but we don’t need to look at the semi-final yet,” said the Huddersfield head coach.

Ian Watson's Huddersfield have a Challenge Cup semi-final next week. (Picture: SWPix.com)

“We need to make sure we focus on this game because if we start focusing on the semi-final, people will get injured or, worse still, we’ll come away with a poor performance, which is not what we want going into a semi-final.

“We just need to focus on the Wakefield game. That’s the most important game of our season right now.”

While Watson is fully focused on the task at hand, he has dangled a semi-final carrot in front of the players on the fringes of his team.

“They [places] are always up for grabs,” he added.

Huddersfield were well beaten at Warrington last week. (Picture: SWPix.com)

“Every game you put your reputation on the line. Last week [against Warrington Wolves] we let ourselves down so we need to amend that.

“There have been a few changes from that team so some people are going to get an opportunity to put their hand up for that semi-final.”

Watson has been forced into at least three changes for the Wakefield clash after losing Tui Lolohea, Chris Hill and Jack Cogger to suspension.

While Huddersfield accepted the one-match bans handed to Lolohea and Hill, they appealed against Cogger’s two-game suspension for use of knees in the defeat to Warrington.

Wakefield suffered a series of heavy defeats over Easter. (Picture: SWPix.com)

The tribunal deemed the challenge to be frivolous and increased his ban to three games, ruling the half-back out of the upcoming meeting with Wigan Warriors as well as the Hull KR showdown.

“We took a chance with Coggs because he wanted to be available for the semi-final,” said Watson.

“Players work all their career to play in big games like that so I know Jack is desperately disappointed he won’t be playing.”

Tonight’s date with Wakefield offers Huddersfield the chance to play their way back into form after a disappointing Easter. But Watson knows it will not be easy against a side just as desperate for the competition points on the back of three straight defeats.

“They’re really good in many areas,” said Watson.

“When you look through the team, they’ve got some really good players.

“They’ve got a good spine and middles who on their day can be outstanding.

“We need to be aware of their threats but this one is more about us, especially after losing the Warrington game.

“We fell way below our standards and it’s important we get back on the horse this week.”

The respect is mutual with Wakefield boss Willie Poching warning his team that they will need to be at their best to claim a much-needed win.

“A disciplined, strong, good football team,” he replied when asked what he expected from Huddersfield. “A typical Ian Watson team that will challenge you for 80 minutes and put everything into it.

“Whilst they’re missing a few, they’ve still got a lot of experience in that side – Josh Jones, Chris McQueen, Michael Lawrence, Leroy Cudjoe.

“They’re still a very, very dangerous team.”

Trinity have lost their way since beating Salford Red Devils to make it four straight wins.

Influential prop David Fifita has been a big miss in recent weeks but he is back from injury to bolster Wakefield’s pack as Poching freshens his side up.

“Big Dave will be one of those bodies,” said Poching. “He’s been sorely missed and the group is excited to have him back.

“He’s been jumping out of his skin.”

Poching’s men went into the Easter period in the top six but came through the other side empty-handed, leaving Trinity in 10th place.

Wakefield are five points behind sixth-placed Huddersfield and four clear of basement side Toulouse Olympique.

But Poching is looking up rather than down and has challenged his team to stay in the race for the play-offs.

“We’ve got to keep chasing it,” he said.

“There’s still a lot of football to be played.

“We’re close to the halfway point and we’re still within touching distance.

“We’ve got to keep fighting every single week regardless. We’ve got to give our best performance to give ourselves the best opportunity possible.”