STEFAN Ratchford insists he will improve in the halves with time as he looks set to start alongside Blake Austin in the early rounds of Warrington Wolves’ 2020 season.

The Wire’s opener against Wigan is likely to come too soon for marquee signing Gareth Widdop, although head coach Steve Price hinted he could yet recover from an ankle injury in time to feature.

However, it is expected Ratchford will start at scrum-half – just as he did in Thursday’s pre-season win over Salford Red Devils in Mike Cooper’s Testimonial match.

He set up tries for Toby King and Anthony Gelling with cross-field kicks and while half-back is not a new position for him, there were cobwebs to brush off.

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“It’s my first run there for a while and I’m sure it will improve as the season goes on,” he said.

“It’s not like it’s a new position to me. I’ve played quite a bit of half and ended up there a few times last year.

“We’ve got a lot of competition for places as well so being versatile is good.

“I’m here to play my role for the team, whatever that may be.”

With Ratchford being moved from his regular full-back berth, youngster Matty Ashton looks set to deputise in the number one shirt at the DW Stadium.

He did so impressively against the Red Devils, making stand-out contributions in defence and looking threatening with ball in hand.

Ratchford says a starting berth in the new season would be just reward for the 21-year-old, who was the Championship’s young player of the year and top try-scorer in 2019 having crossed 30 times for Swinton Lions.

Warrington Guardian:

Matty Ashton impressed in Ratchford's regular full-back berth. Picture by Mike Boden

“Matty’s been brilliant since he came in,” he said.

“He can catch pigeons – he’s absolutely lightning.

“I’m really pleased for Matty as he’s been working really hard.

“He’s keen to learn and get better and he’s not afraid to ask questions to myself or the other lads.”

The Wire scored 18 unanswered points in the second half to win 26-10 at The Halliwell Jones Stadium in what will be their only home pre-season game.

Warrington Guardian:

Toby King crosses after claiming Ratchford's cross-field kick. Picture by Mike Boden

Ratchford kicked five goals from as many attempts and gave a mixed review of what his side served up.

The 31-year-old is also feeling the benefits of a full pre-season – even if he was given a bit of extra time off by Price.

“It’s always good to get out there. You do all this work in pre-season but you never really gauge where you’re at until you play,” he said.

“Overall, there was some good stuff but we had a couple of spells where we weren’t quite happy with what we were dishing out.

“I think we can take a lot out of it though – the boys got plenty of minutes into their legs which is pleasing.

“Even within the first half, we were doing some good stuff.

“It might not have looked brilliant but we were putting into place some of the things we’ve been working on since mid-November.

“We just stuck to what we were doing and we got a roll on in the end.

“It’s my first full pre-season in six or seven years but its been good.

“When you’re in the international scene, you don’t quite appreciate how hard the lads are working when you’re not there.

“The boss has been good to me – he gave me and a couple of the older boys an extra couple of weeks off.

“It’s been good and fun, but I’m glad the season is here now.”