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Warrington Wolves boss faces some selection headaches ahead of play-off semi final
WOLVES are better equipped than they ever have been to make a successful assault on the Grand Final, says head of coaching and rugby Tony Smith.
Brushing aside the challenge of last year’s Grand Final victors Leeds Rhinos in impressive fashion last week – their second ever play-off win against that opposition in four meetings – Wolves believe they have learnt the necessary lessons to carry them one step further this time around.
“I think we are better equipped this year than we were last year, absolutely,” said Smith.
“There is no guarantee in any game at this time of the year.
“But it is like many things in life, you can call on your past experiences to help you.
“Hopefully you are able to handle those similar situations better the second, third or even fourth time around and in that respect I would like to think that we are a little further down the track than we were last year.”
Wolves can also take confidence from the fact they they have rarely been stronger all season than they are now, with Smith expecting to welcome Brett Hodgson (achilles) and Richie Myler (knee) back to the first team after their respective injuries.
In fact, Wolves are as close to full strength as they have been all season, with the only question mark hanging over Trent Waterhouse’s fitness for the semi final.
“Trent is our main concern, he is touch and go for Thursday,” said Smith, who has decided not to attend Sunday’s ClubCall at which Wolves will select their semi-final opponent.
“He came off early with some medial ligament damage to his knee, but that has not definitely put him out, he will be battling to get back.”
Even with a full contingent of players blips in form can still occur – the Challenge Cup semi final against Hull FC proved that succinctly enough – but it is how a team allows it to affect them that determines a champion side.
“The beauty of sport is still that it is down to how you handle it on the day, but if you can draw on your experience, execute and use it to your advantage then that can help,” said Smith.
“For example, we made a lot of opportunities at the weekend and we took a considerable amount where previously we have failed to do that.
“It is still down to being in the right spot, making the right tackles and passes, but the judgements you make are hopefully based on what you have been through before and have learnt from.”
Wolves will announce their semi-final opponent at the ClubCall at The Halliwell Jones Stadium on Sunday, a decision that will be made jointly by coaches, owner Simon Moran, chief executive Andy Gatcliffe and Chairman Steven Broomhead.
Despite being a huge decision for the immediate future of Wolves’ Super League season, Smith has publically distanced himself from it.
“It is not something that I show any interest in.
“I will prepare my team for whoever the club decides to choose.
“I suppose Simon will discuss it at the top level, but I’ll be happy with whichever team they choose.”
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