WORST fears of supporters have come true as Warrington Wolves are now confirmed to be playing in the Middle 8s in stage two of the season.

Slim hopes of a finish in the top eight thanks to back-to-back derby wins against Leigh Centurions and Wigan Warriors proved irrelevant to the big picture when Huddersfield Giants defeated Leigh Centurions at the John Smiths Stadium on Friday.

The Giants, three points clear of The Wire with one round remaining before the split into the ‘8s’, take the final place in the elite group.

It means, because of the convoluted format now in its third season, although not relegated Wolves will be playing league games outside of the top flight for the first time in their history.

And on the back of Catalans Dragons losing at St Helens this afternoon, Wolves can now not be caught in ninth ahead of hosting Widnes Vikings at The Halliwell Jones Stadium on Thursday.

Playing seven games in the Middle 8s in August and September means The Wire will have fixtures against the other three finishers in the bottom four and the top four sides in the Championship.

Matches are now guaranteed against Catalans Dragons, Widnes Vikings, Leigh Centurions, Hull Kingston Rovers, London Broncos and Featherstone Rovers, as well as against either Halifax or Toulouse Olympique.

Four of them will be home games, three of them away, on the weekends of August 4-6, 11-13, 18-20, September 1-3, 8-10, 15-17 and 22-24.

After this afternoon's results in Super League and the Championship, we now know Wolves will have home games against Hull KR and Catalans as well as against the 11th place club in Super League (Leigh or Widnes) and the third place club in the Championship (Featherstone or Halifax).

Away games will be against London Broncos, the fourth place Championship club (Halifax or Toulouse) and the 12th place Super League club (Leigh or Widnes).

Teams going into the Middle 8s start a fresh league table and, at the end of the seven rounds, the top three sides on the ladder automatically have places in Super League next season.

Those sides finishing fourth and fifth have a play-off known as The Million Pound Game, scheduled for Saturday, September 30, with the winners taking the final spot in Super League 2018 and the losers taking their place in the Championship.

Last year, Leeds Rhinos, Huddersfield Giants and Leigh Centurions achieved the automatic places while Salford Red Devils edged past Hull Kingston Rovers in the Million Pound Game courtesy of an outrageous long-range drop goal from their Warringtonian full-back Gareth O’Brien.

Fixtures will be confirmed after all Round 23 games have been completed in Super League and the Championship.