Wolves looking to impress Smith
Warrington Wolves head to London tomorrow a week ahead of their Challenge Cup final date with Leeds Rhinos, with coach Tony Smith warning that places in his Wembley team are still up for grabs.
Smith, a two-time winner of the cup during his time with the Wolves, has rested six frontline players for the meeting with a rejuvenated London Broncos at the Stoop, giving some of his fringe players the chance to impress.
And, although Lee Briers, Garreth Carvell, Ben Harrison, Brett Hodgson, Joel Monaghan and Ben Westwood are highly unlikely to miss next week’s game as a result of tomorrow’s rest, the likes of Chris Bridge, Tyrone McCarthy and David Solomona will be looking to push their cases for any unclaimed spots.
“It’s way too soon for me to know my line-up, it’s totally undecided,” the Australian coach said.
“There are so many twists and turns and things that can happen to you. There are certainly some people who you would imagine would be favourites in terms of selection, but there’s no guarantees.
“The team changes at London and I have a responsibility to give some of the boys (coming in) an opportunity to play for jerseys. They all buy into the rotation, but they also want to put their best foot forward to lay stake for a claim on one of the jerseys for the next week.”
The Wolves head south in the back of their impressive 30-10 win over closest title rivals Wigan last weekend and, with the Warriors not in action until Monday, could take top spot with a success tomorrow.
They face an in-form London, though, fresh from their stunning win at Castleford Tigers last Sunday.
Given a new lease of life under interim coach Tony Rea, the Broncos cut loose in west Yorkshire, running up a 42-20 victory which was entirely out of character for their year.
The match also marked centre David Howell’s 100th appearance for the club, with the Australian reaching the landmark after a long battle with injury.
He knows match 101 might not be as comfortable, however, saying: “It’s going to be tough, Warrington are one of the benchmark teams and everyone is going to have to put a shift in for the full 80 minutes.
“But that is what we have to do for the last games of the season. We need to put in good performances so we can start to build towards next season.”
Coach Rea is boosted by the return from injury of Michael Robertson and from illness of Will Lovell, but the same luxuries cannot be afforded to St Helens’ Mike Rush.
He is preparing his side for tomorrow’s meeting with Castleford shorn of the services of centre Michael Shenton (ankle), Josh Jones (dead leg) and Jon Wilkin (quadricep).
The caretaker boss can welcome back Sia Soliola from a two-game lay-off, but it is still not clear whether Ade Gardner will play, despite the winger’s inclusion in the squad having not featured since April because of an eye problem.
He needs every body he can call on too, with his side looking to recover from last weekend’s 33-32 last-second defeat to Wakefield Trinity Wildcats, although he believes there were mitigating circumstances.
“We were not great and need to improve, but we have come off the back of a really big month with games against Catalan, Huddersfield and Warrington,” he said.
“On Sunday, we hit a patch after the Warrington game where we were low on energy and enthusiasm, knowing that we can’t finish second in the table. But, we still scored 32 points.
“Some of our penalties were down to poor technique and we will address that. Part of it stemmed from tiredness. We know we need to sort out our defence.”
The Saints face a Cas side sporting one change to its squad from the London defeat, with utility back James Clare replacing the suspended Jamie Ellis.