Wigan Warriors v Hull FC - Jordan Lane helps Airlie Birds maintain momentum

SINCE Hull FC defeated Wigan Warriors in the 2017 Challenge Cup final at Wembley, they have only beaten the Cherry and Whites once more in the following nine meetings.

Big break: Jordan Lane has impressed for Hull FC this season and earned a call-up into the England Knights squad. Lane has emerged as a key player under new coach Brett Hodgson. (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe)

It is something they will bid to put right tonight when both sides put their unbeaten records this season on the line at DW Stadium.

Castleford Tigers were in the same position when they ventured there last Thursday and ultimately fell short against Adrian Lam’s side in a titanic tussle.

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Hull, who have made such significant strides under new coach Brett Hodgson this term, will feel confident they can glean a better outcome.

They have good reason for such belief, not least because of the form of some of their young forwards such as Joe Cator and Jordan Lane who were both drafted into the England Knights squad this week.

Lane, the 23-year-old Hull-born back-row who has become known for his incisive breaks, is relishing the chance to pit himself against Lam’s side.

He said: “We know it’s going to be a good contest against Wigan.

“It always is. And us travelling away to them hasn’t been our strong point in recent years.

Hull FC's Scortt Taylor, Ligi Sao, Carlos Tuimavave and Wakefield's Mason Lino after Hull's latest victory (Picture: Alex Whitehead/SWPix.com)

“They are a strong side. The young boys for them really step up for them as well.

“They have a few players who are playing out of position this week so we’re looking to exploit that and see if we can do a job on them.

“I reckon it’s going to be a slugfest as their middles are always seen as the most dominant pack in Super League in terms of defence. But we’re going to rock up there and show that we’re up there with them.”

Hull’s last two outings against Wigan have been particularly painful: a 29-2 Super League semi-final defeat and a 36-4 Challenge Cup quarter-final loss.

No one, though, expects so many points being conceded tonight; one thing they have improved markedly under Australian Hodgson’s watch is defence.

It will be intriguing to see if they can retain their new-found resilience – FC have conceded just 42 points in three games –against a Wigan side boasting the creative talents of Zak Hardaker, Bevan French and Jackson Hastings.

“The reason we’re winning games is because of our defence and how good it is this year,” said Lane, who praised his former pack colleague Gareth Ellis, the ex-Great Britain second-row who is now working on Hull’s coaching staff.

“The points that we’re letting in now are very minimal and that’s helping us to griund these wins out.

“Gaz is a good coach. What more do you want from a defence coach than Gaz? Sometimes you still think he is a player the way he is around training.

“But some of the stuff he’s brought in this year is showing in the games as our defence is as tight as it’s ever been.”

Lane’s own development is part of that as well; he is increasingly integral to Hodgson and is maximising his chances with Manu Ma’u being out injured.

What has been central to his improved displays?

He said: “It all started at pre-season. I came in hungrier and wanted to tie up a few aspects of my game.

“I worked hard on my fitness and I’m a lot fitter than I have been the last two years.

“I put it down to this – and buying into what we’re doing.”

That said, he was still “shocked” to hear about his England Knights call-up.

Lane said: “I didn’t really expect it. I was out having a meal with the missus and Paul Anderson gave me a ring and told me I’d made the 27-man squad.

“I was over the moon, but I was shocked at the same time. I feel like I’ve started the season well and it’s shown that I put in some hard work this pre-season and I’ve reaped the reward for it.”

If Lane can replicate his form again tonight, another reward could come in the shape of a rare victory over Wigan.

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