TONY Smith is backing his Warrington Wolves side as favourites to reach the Challenge Cup final.
Wolves face Leeds Rhinos on Saturday at Langtree Park, kick-off 2.30pm, in the first of the competition’s semi finals.
The boss insists he has faith in his side going into every game, but admits Leeds coach Brian McDermott will think the same of his troops.
“I’d like to think we’re favourites because I’ve got a good bunch of players and I’m confident in their abilities,” said Smith.
“Brian Mac will be exactly the same. We’re both capable teams that can perform really well on the day.
“They’ve got threats all over the park. They’ve got internationals and former internationals all over the park. They’ve got a fantastic back line, their edge people are terrific, their back people are terrific and their forwards are terrific.
“I’d like to think ours are pretty terrific as well and are capable of matching them – I always think my team is capable.”
McDermott chose to rest some of his experienced players in Friday’s loss to Bradford Bulls, while Smith welcomed back from injury Michael Monaghan, Simon Grix and Trent Waterhouse.
“Who knows what outcome it will have,” added Wolves’ head of coaching and rugby. “We fielded a very strong team, but that was without Matty Russell, Micky Higham, Ryan Atkins and Ben Westwood, who are all fit and ready to go now.
“We also gave some of our strong performers and experienced performers a week to get ready. There’ll be benefits for us in that respect.”
Smith also believes three Wembley triumphs, including two against Leeds, during his reign will matter little come Saturday.
“It’s about what we do this week that counts,” he explained. “What we’ve done in the past, fantastic, we’re very proud of it and they’re memories we treasure as a club, but that’s got very little to do with this team.
“Some of the players who were involved can bring their experiences to the team, but many are new faces and 2012 means very little to them.
“In 2009 we won our first one, we hadn’t got the experience and we handled it pretty well.”
Ben Evans remains a long-term absentee, while Ben Currie is Wolves’ only other injury concern after taking a knock to his knee in the win at Catalan Dragons last Friday.
“We’ll keep an eye on him as the week goes on,” said Smith. “Every coach wants competition for places. It’s a tough week for selection but that also makes it a good week.”