TONY Smith believes testing times can be the making of Warrington Wolves’ youngsters as the team look to bounce back from successive Super League defeats.
Joint skipper Ben Westwood is a week away from a return with Simon Grix, Paul Wood and Richie Myler remaining among Wolves’ absentees, while a knee injury could sideline Kevin Penny for up to two months.
Wolves’ injuries have increased exposure for their younger players, but head of coaching and rugby Smith is confident the experience will be beneficial.
“We’re hopeful of using a lot of our young guys, but for numbers of successive games you’d rather pick and choose. That’s not the way it’s worked out,” he said.
“That’s what you’re hopeful about, that you can rotate your players so they’re feeling fresh and playing at their best, giving players experiences at the right time.
“At the same time they’re our support players, meaning if experienced players are out they step up and we’ve had a number of them do that, in many cases do it well.
“It’s been a testing time, that brings you up and develops you. You either succumb to it or stand up and become better – that’s what we’re aiming to do as a team and as individuals.”
Stefan Ratchford returns to Wolves’ 19-man squad for the home clash with Catalan Dragons tomorrow, Friday, but Smith expects Penny’s scan to show a grade two medial ligament tear.
The winger had scored four tries in three games after forcing his way into the team.
“I’m being told about eight weeks,” he added. “We haven’t got that confirmed just yet but not far off. He was showing some really good signs and he’s worked hard to get there.
“We need to get them all back when they’re ready, in their own time and at the right time. In the meantime we need to make do, more than make do, we need to perform.”
Wolves host a Catalan Dragons side on a four-match Super League winning streak and Smith expects an improved defensive display from the loss at Bradford Bulls.
“Hopefully Catalan’s attack is the right sort of challenge for us to stand up and get our defensive efforts in the right order,” he explained. “We conceded way too many points against Bradford and it shows where your stats don’t actually tell the picture.
“Our number of missed tackles was the second best for the whole season, it was 12 and our opponents missed 28, but it shows whether you’re covering for each other when you do.”