Westwood set for Wolves return
Warrington Wolves’ England forward Ben Westwood is poised to make his comeback from injury in Friday's Engage Super League qualifying semi-final against Leeds.
The back rower has been out for six weeks with a knee injury but was today named in coach Tony Smith's 19-man squad and captain Adrian Morley admits his return is set to provide the title favourites with a timely boost.
"He's been absolutely fantastic," Morley said. "We certainly have missed him when he's not been playing. It will give everyone a boost now he's back in the mix."
The availability of Westwood is also a timely boost for England ahead of the Four Nations Series while Leeds Rhinos coach Brian McDermott admits he will add depth to an already strong Warrington pack.
"He's been very strong for the majority of the season," McDermott said. "They will have a strong pack."
Front rower Paul Wood is now Warrington's only injury absentee while Leeds will also be virtually at full strength with the return of second rower-turned centre Carl Ablett.
Ablett has missed the Rhinos' last two games with a head knock sustained in the last match of the regular season at Huddersfield Giants a fortnight ago but has been included in McDermott's 19-man squad.
"When you are talking about heads, you can't take any risks but Carl will be there or thereabouts," he said.
McDermott looks certain to retain teenager Zak Hardaker at centre following his hat-trick heroics in last Friday's play-off win over the Giants, with Brett Delaney set to switch from the threequarters to the pack to accommodate the return of Ablett.
"We haven't quite finalised the team," added McDermottl. "We've got some options there."
Another centre, Kallum Watkins, is Leeds' only definite absentee as he continues his recovery from a knee injury.
Meanwhile, The Rhinos have begun to prepare for the departure of veteran Australian Danny Buderus by signing up young hookers Paul McShane and Liam Hood on new four-year deals.
Buderus has yet to announce his future plans and McDermott is happy to go along whatever his decision he makes.
"He's bouncing," he said. "He had one of his best games of the season on Friday.
"I don't have too much of a comment on next year but whatever happens, he'll have my full support. It's been a pleasure to coach him this year."