Wire boosted by duo's return
Double-chasing Warrington Wolves expect to be at full strength for Saturday’s Stobart Super League semi-final against St Helens at Langtree Park.
Prop forward Garreth Carvell is set to return after missing last Saturday’s 24-12 win over Hull FC with back spasms and coach Tony Smith is confident second rower Ben Westwood will also be available after being out for a month with a knee injury.
“There’s a chance of both of them playing so, aside from Gareth O’Brien, we could be at full strength,” Smith said.
“I’m pretty confident Carvs will be available to us and there’s a fair chance Benny might make it too so we’ve got a pretty clean bill of health and some real problems in selection.”
Westwood, one of three players short-listed for the Man of Steel award, has not played since damaging a knee in the Wolves’ Challenge Cup final win over Leeds Rhinos at Wembley and was sorely missed in their home play-off defeat by Saints.
“He’s had a great year,” Smith said. “I’m not surprised he’s up for Man of Steel. He’s deserved that nomination. He’s in there with some pretty high-calibre players and he’s not out of place in my eyes.
“He works hard for us and performs well on each and every occasion. We’ve shown we can cope without him but it would be nice to have him there with us.”
Mike Cooper and Simon Grix are the players likely to make way, enabling Smith to field his Wembley line-up.
St Helens’ only absentee will be centre Michael Shenton, who broke a bone in his hand during his side’s win at Wigan Warriors in the last match of the regular season which proved to be his last for the club as he prepares to return to Castleford Tigers.
Australian back rower Chris Flannery, who has missed the last three matches with a calf injury, is expected to return for what he hopes will be the penultimate match of his career as he gets ready for retirement.
“He’s a chance of coming back but obviously we had a good performance last time out,” said St Helens caretaker coach Mike Rush.
“He’ll be in the squad but we won’t pick a team until Thursday evening or Friday morning.
“He’s training very hard so he’s given himself every chance. He probably could have played in the last game if it was do or die and he’s trained for the last two weeks.”
Saints lead 2-1 in the head-to-head clashes so far this year but victories for the away team on each occasion suggests home advantage will count for little and Rush says he is not reading too much into his side’s 28-6 victory at the Halliwell Jones Stadium 10 days ago.
“We can’t just expect to turn up and expect the same performance,” he said. “The attitude, the mentality and everything else has to be right up there this week because it’s a do-or-die game.
“Nobody is going to leave anything in the changing rooms, it’s all going to be spilt on that field.”
Smith admits his side will need to find a marked improvement from their last meeting, especially on attack.
“We probably need to make some adjustments,” he said. “We certainly need to be a bit more patient with the ball and respect the very good defence that Saints have got.
“I thought both teams defended pretty well last time but, attack wise, we were way off where we needed to be. We’d like to ask a few more questions of Saints if we can.”