“LET’S see what happens when they play Wigan and Saints.”

That is the caveat many have attached to the start Warrington Wolves have made to this season – a start in which progress has undoubtedly been made in many areas.

It is perhaps natural to do so as both historically and in the more recent past, these are the games in which Wire sides and their head coaches are ultimately judged.

Last year, the superb start to the campaign hit the buffers when the neighbours came calling before collapsing dramatically. While nobody could claim to have seen such a fall coming, defeats to Wigan Warriors and St Helens demonstrated that there was still a gap to bridge to the sides that have become the established elite.

As such, the first “Judgement Day” of the Sam Burgess era is about to arrive – earlier than anticipated – as the short trip to the Totally Wicked Stadium awaits on Sunday in the Challenge Cup quarter finals in a game packed full of sub-plots.

Can Wire harness the spirit of 2019 when they stunned a heavily-favoured Saints side to lift the famous cup, even though one of the men at its heart in Daryl Clark now turns out for the opposite side?

Warrington Guardian: Daryl Clark - seen here celebrating his winning try in the 2019 Challenge Cup Final - will play against Warrington for the first time since leaving them to join St Helens on SundayDaryl Clark - seen here celebrating his winning try in the 2019 Challenge Cup Final - will play against Warrington for the first time since leaving them to join St Helens on Sunday (Image: Mike Boden)

Can they do so despite their pack once again being without its cornerstone in Paul Vaughan, who has now missed all three of his potential trips to St Helens through suspension?

A strange quirk in the fixture schedule meant this kind of test was not meant to arrive until Wigan visit The Halliwell Jones Stadium on June 1, while they were not due to meet Saints until mid-July.

Now, though, the knockout format has offered up a chance to measure how close Warrington are to the teams that have caused them nothing but pain over the past two seasons.

And of course, the fact their participation in one of the three trophies on offer is on the line adds another element of jeopardy to what the biggest test of Burgess’ boys and their supporters’ belief in what they can achieve to date.

This year’s bumps in the road have both come against Catalans Dragons – the side who can claim to be alongside Wigan and Saints in the top bracket of teams Wire are trying to catch up to – and while home and away defeats to them have been disappointing, they have featured the aspects of this year’s group that supporters are finding quite likeable.

First and foremost, they are competing in every game – something that should be a prerequisite but very much hasn’t been at times in recent years. Supporters can turn up to games with a fair degree of confidence that their side will not be blown away.

Even having fallen 18-0 down inside 13 minutes against Les Dracs a fortnight ago, their fightback to the verge of victory showed there is plenty of grit and togetherness within the squad.

Further evidence of which came at Headingley on Friday when they comfortably saw off a dangerous Leeds Rhinos side despite the absence of several key players, particularly in the pack.

Warrington Guardian: Danny Walker is mobbed after scoring in the second half

Add a battling victory at a hostile Hull KR to that and there is a growing body of proof that this group of players will fight for one another.

That trait will make sure these games are at least close. Now, their task is to find that little bit extra to get themselves over the line in these high-pressure games.

If they can, the belief and momentum it will generate both in the dressing room and on the terraces is untold.

Over to you, chaps...

Warrington Guardian: Sam Burgess salutes the Wire fans at full time at Headingley