IT is not the way Warrington Wolves wanted it, but Tony Smith is confident his side’s Challenge Cup exit can have a positive impact on their Grand Final ambitions.
With the exception of Ben Evans and Ben Currie, Wolves are back at full strength ahead of a tough finish to the Super League season.
That begins against Castleford Tigers tomorrow, Friday at The Halliwell Jones Stadium, kick off 8pm.
“It’s not the way we would want to do it by any means,” said Smith. “But you can put it to your advantage once you’re in that situation.
“We’ve got one focus now and that’s to finish the league as high up the ladder as we can, go into the final series and give it a real shake.
“We’ve got nothing else to focus on. Had we have performed better then we’d still have that as our ambition as well.
“We can be single minded and that’s certainly where we’re changing our attention to with no other choice.”
James Laithwaite for Gene Ormsby is the only change to Wolves’ 19-man squad this week, with Smith giving his charges time to gel.
“We’ve got a team that’s fighting hard. They may not have gelled particularly in that first half, but we’re not going to have any sweeping changes,” he added.
“We’ve got to pick ourselves up and start to focus on the next part of the adventure. That’ll come on Friday, so attention soon turned to Cas.”
Castleford head to Wembley a week on Saturday and despite Wolves suffering losses in the run-up to previous Challenge Cup finals, Smith expects a close game against a much-changed side that sits one place above them in Super League.
“We’re preparing for a hard-fought game against Cas,” he explained.
“They’re a good team and sitting above us in the table.
“They took us to the cleaners at their place earlier in the year, so we’re preparing for a big improvement on our performance from last week.”
Currie will miss out, but Chris Hill is available after suffering an eye injury when he was held up over the Leeds line by Zak Hardaker.
“Ben is still on the injury list and will be for another week, maybe two, he had quite a bad dead leg above the knee,” added Smith.
“He (Hill) is fine. He was trying to score a try and sometimes things go awry, but I don’t think there was anything intentional.
“It was a mad scramble and he probably copped a finger where it’s quite tender.”
Cas will rest a stack of their stars, with suspended Justin Carney joined on the sidelines by fellow winger Kirk Dixon, full back Luke Dorn, centres Michael Shenton and Jake Webster, stand off Marc Sneyd, hooker Daryl Clark and injured prop Craig Huby. They welcome back Weller Hauraki from suspension.
Wolves: Roy Asotasi, Ryan Atkins, Chris Bridge, Anthony England, Rhys Evans, Simon Grix, Ben Harrison, Micky Higham, Chris Hill, James Laithwaite, Joel Monaghan, Michael Monaghan, Richie Myler, Gareth O’Brien, Stefan Ratchford, Matthew Russell, Trent Waterhouse, Ben Westwood, Paul Wood.
Tigers: Jordan Tansey, Andy Lynch, Adam Milner, Weller Hauraki, Nathan Massey, Oliver Holmes, Frankie Mariano, Scott Wheeldon, Jamie Ellis, Ashley Gibson, Michael Channing, James Clare, Liam Finn, Ben Reynolds, Brad Day, Lee Jewitt, Garreth Carvell, Will Maher, Jordan Howden.