TONY Smith plans to use Boxing Day’s clash with ‘derby’ rivals Widnes at the Stobart Stadium as a trial to determine which of his first-team squad will be playing in the Championship at the start of the 2013 season.

Wolves’ annual festive friendly will be used, as usual, to decide which of Smith’s squadmen are in a position to fight for a regular first-team spot.

But there is an added element that will make this year’s game more important for the players involved.

Those who are not deemed ready or required to make the step up could play their early season rugby with Swinton Lions as part of Wolves’ link-up with the Championship club.

“We are working out who may well play with Lions, but any of our first-team squad could potentially play in Swinton colours next season,” said Smith.

“The Boxing Day game will act as a trial for some of these players, so many of those guys who play will be vying for a Wolves place in early season games.

“The team will be a mix of the junior and senior players, but we certainly won’t throw any player into a match situation without enough training under their belt.”

That rules out a raft of first-team regulars who have undergone operations or played international matches since Wolves’ season ended at Old Trafford in October.

Many of the players who took part in the Autumn International Series with England or Wales, or the Atalia Cup with Ireland, are yet to return to full training.

Tyrone MCarthy (shoulder), Rhys Williams (knee), Stefan Ratchford (knee), Ryan Atkins (shoulder), Ben Westwood (groin), Garreth Carvell (knee), Simon Grix (elbow) and Chris Bridge (knee) have all undergone operations.

This is all according to plan for Smith, who is pleased with the progress his players are making through their specific rehabilitation programmes.

“They are going along very well and they have all ‘rehabbed’ well, which is vitally important in the first stages of recovery,” he said.

“Everyone’s operations have been successful and we are starting to see the benefits of them already.”

Wolves’ Australian contingent, too, will play no part in the Boxing Day match, as the Monaghan brothers, Trent Waterhouse and Brett Hodgson are not expected back in Warrington until game day at the earliest.

Smith said: “They are all training at various places in Australia to keep ticking over. They are going along well and we expect them back on December 26 and 27.”