TONY Smith is paying little attention to the ‘derby’ hype as Warrington Wolves prepare to visit Widnes Vikings tomorrow.
Wolves are boosted by Chris Bridge’s availability after avoiding suspension for a striking charge, but Joel Monaghan is not named in the 19-man squad.
Smith’s side suffered a 38-22 defeat in their last Super League outing on Vikings’ artificial pitch and the boss says the surface does make a difference.
“I appreciate the feeling this game has between the two sets of fans but our job is to get out there and perform every week,” said Wolves’ head of coaching and rugby.
“It doesn’t change anything for us. We’re aware it’s a ‘derby’ and we’ll be trying hard like we do every week.
“We’ll respect Widnes in the way we should. We remember a heavy defeat there last time and certainly don’t want that to happen again.
“The pitch is different to play on. People play differently and the ball reacts differently, the players tackle differently and approach the game differently.”
Monaghan, whose left arm was heavily strapped in Sunday’s win over London, is nursing a niggle while Bridge’s early guilty plea after a clash with Atelea Vea and Paul Wood’s recent comeback provide boosts, as will returns by Stefan Ratchford, Ryan Atkins and Roy Asotasi after a rest.
“We didn’t fight it (the charge) but I thought it was nothing. Chris showed great restraint in not retaliating and got charged for pushing somebody,” added Smith.
“If he was going to get suspended for a week there would be a lot of people off the rugby league field each week. He’s available for us and we’re grateful for that.
“Woody came through and fared well. It’s always a nervous time when somebody comes back for their first game but that was a good game for him to return.
“It gives more depth within the squad. Woody’s a big competitor and is keen to get a starting position if he can. He also plays exceptionally well off the bench so is a great attribute for us.”
Smith said Michael Monaghan, Richie Myler, James Laithwaite and Kevin Penny are close to returning, while Simon Grix and Trent Waterhouse are a couple of weeks behind.
“They’re all experienced players we’ve had out, so the experience they bring back to the team will be useful,” explained Smith.
“The boys who have been doing the job have done it exceptionally well and it’s been good experience for them.”
Wolves 19: Wolves: Roy Asotasi, Ryan Atkins, Chris Bridge, Ben Currie, Brad Dwyer, Anthony England, Rhys Evans, Ben Harrison, Micky Higham, Chris Hill, Toby King, Gareth O’Brien, Gene Ormsby, Joe Philbin, Stefan Ratchford, Glenn Riley, Matthew Russell, Ben Westwood, Paul Wood.