12:30pm Thursday 10th May 2012
By Christopher Terris Taylor
WOLVES will be much better prepared for this weekend’s Challenge Cup battle with Catalan Dragons than they were for the Super League defeat suffered in France on Easter Monday.
That is the promise of Wolves’ head of coaching and rugby Tony Smith as he attempts to reverse the fortunes of that ‘embarrassing’ 44-16 defeat in Perpignan a little over a month ago.
“It is all about the preparation leading up to the game, as it can be crucial for performances,” said Smith.
“We are undoubtedly more satisfied with the way we are preparing this time. We can prepare with time for details, we can pick the right flights and what options we wanted and which day we wanted to go.”
Wolves fly out to Béziers Airport – 50 miles north of Perpignan – on Friday, giving them an extra night to rest from the journey, a day to train at Stade Gilbert Brutus and to acclimatise to the heat ahead of the crunch quarter final match on Sunday, kick off 3.10pm (live on BBC2).
Wolves’ last trip to France ended in disaster when they slumped to their largest defeat under Tony Smith for three years, albeit in tough circumstances and at a stadium that has been a fortress for Trent Robinson’s side so far this season.
While Smith admitted that the testing Easter schedule – Wolves flew to Barcelona the day before the game and just two days after their defeat of Widnes – were less than ideal, his players still had to shoulder some of the blame.
He said: “This time we have been able to review our last game (Salford) and have a break between the preview for our next game,” he said.
“We didn’t have that luxury last time. It was what it was. We are not making excuses because they outperformed us on the day and certainly came home stronger than us.
“But this time arrangements are better so we would hope our performance would be better, though that is no guarantee.
“You can go to Catalan, play well and not get a result because they are a very good team. But we have given ourselves every chance.”
Smith may not necessarily be in a better position when it comes to the players available to him.
Richie Myler (abductor), Stefan Ratchford (shoulder) and David Solomona (leg) remain sidelined, while captain Adrian Morley (neck) and Michael Monaghan (knee) are not certain to be ‘match ready’ after long lay-offs, though Smith refused to rule out the possibility that one or both of them could be recalled for such an important match.
Balancing that with the decision of whether to play the more inexperienced Brad Dwyer (hooker) and Gareth O’Brien (half back), or opt for the battle-hardened Simon Grix in either role, will likely give him plenty of headaches before Sunday.
However, resting Brett Hodgson, Chris Bridge, Lee Briers and Ben Westwood for the 24-20 defeat of Salford at the weekend means that Smith is guaranteed of welcoming some fresh bodies into the starting line-up.
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