MICHAEL Smith said Luke 'The Nuke' Littler’s popularity is 'even bigger than Phil Taylor' after denying the 17-year-old darts sensation a shot at victory on his Premier League debut.

2023 world champion Smith edged out the Warrington 17-year-old 6-5 in a high-quality semi-final before going on to beat home favourite Gerwyn Price and silence a capacity Cardiff crowd.

“I actually thought in the semi-final Luke Littler was Welsh,” said Smith, such was the backing for 'The Nuke' in the Utilita Arena.

“It’s going to be every week, it doesn’t matter where it is.

“Everyone’s fallen in love with him. He’s even bigger than Phil Taylor who won 16 world titles. Luke is the most popular thing in darts.”

The St Helens thrower, who faced 'The Nuke' for the first time, suggested all players are benefiting from Littler's popularity as he continued: “I’m going to ride the wave. People keep following, sponsors keep coming in, and the prize money is going up for us lads.

“When I walked in this afternoon there were no interviews.

“Luke Littler walked in and it was ‘can you do this one, can you do that one?’.

“That was me last year. This time I got to sit and chill, break up my time on the board and it worked.”