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Warrington Wolves and Wigan Warriors to bring out the big guns in honour of Wolves ace Ben Westwood
WARRINGTON Wolves will hold nothing back in their final warm-up match against Wigan Warriors at The Halliwell Jones Stadium on Saturday, kick off 3pm.
Ben Westwood’s eagerly anticipated ‘Betfred Challenge’ Testimonial match against the current League Leaders’ Shield holders promises to be a full-blooded encounter, with both sides pledging to field their strongest possible sides as the new Super League season looms on the horizon.
“We have 24 first-team players fit and ready to go against Wigan,” said Wolves’ head of coaching and rugby Tony Smith, who arrived back with his squad from the warm weather training camp in Tenerife on Monday night.
“This game is important because it gives the players a chance to put into practice some of the training that we have done over the last few weeks.
“We are looking forward to it and it will surely be a good hit-out for both sides.”
Wolves’ fan favourite ‘Super’ Bennie Westwood is marking outstanding service in primrose and blue since his arrival from Wakefield Trinity Wildcats in 2002, scoring 97 tries and kicking 80 goals during the 282 appearances in that time.
It was against Wigan Warriors, back on June 29, 2002, that Westwood made his home debut at Wilderspool Stadium, adding another layer of relevance to a match that is the grandstand event in the four-time Super League Dream Team second rower’s 10-year celebration.
“It means a lot to me, that a team like Wigan would agree to play against us for my Testimonial,” said the 31-year-old.
“It is the best game we could have set up I think, both in terms of a spectacle and preparation.
“A game like this is just what we need as a team before the season starts, as playing this game means Wolves can hit the ground running and be in a good position for the visit of Castleford (February 3).”
And if Smith’s report on their week of training in Tenerife is anything to go by, Wolves’ first-team regulars will be more than ready for their return to competitive action on Saturday.
“I am absolutely delighted with the way my players have been training,” he said.
“They were outstanding in Tenerife and I am over the moon with them.
“The conditions over there helped and they took full advantage of their chance to get some extra work done.
“Their attitude, their behaviour and their whole approach to the week away was thoroughly professional and inspiring to watch.”
Smith has ruled only the recovering Chris Bridge (knee and ankle surgery) out of an appearance against Wigan, though doubts are cast over appearances from Tyrone McCarthy and Simon Grix after Smith admitted two weeks ago that the pair may need a little longer in training following pre-season surgery.
The match gives Wolves an early taste of Wigan’s new-look squad ahead of their meeting at the DW Stadium in round two of Super League on February 8.
Among those gone from last season’s ranks are Thomas Leuluai, Jeff Lima, Brett Finch, George Carmont, Gareth Hock and Matthew Russell, while stand off Blake Green and prop Scott Taylor have been drafted in from Hull Kingston Rovers.