Smith not hitting panic button
Warrington Wolves will find themselves out of the top eight in First Utility Super League on Friday night if they lose at home to Catalan Dragons, but coach Tony Smith insists there is no need to panic.
The Wolves have been Grand Finalists in each of the last two years and were installed as pre-season title favourites, but they are currently above the ninth-placed Catalans only on points difference after winning just five of their first 11 matches.
It is five years since Warrington were last out of the play-off places, but Smith says they are still coming to terms with the departure of Lee Briers, Adrian Morley, Brett Hodgson and Garreth Carvell at the end of last season, and are currently sorely missing the likes of Ben Westwood and Simon Grix, who are injured.
Smith remains confident that he can turn around their fortunes in time for another tilt at Old Trafford and admits missing out on the play-offs altogether would be unthinkable.
"It would be if that's where we finish the season," Smith said. "But we're not panicking.
"We're not happy with where we're sitting, but we're sitting where we deserve to. We haven't been consistent enough to win some of those games in which we probably would have been considered favourites in the past.
"We're a different team. There are different players there and some players we expected to be there that aren't.
"We've had a few challenges but it's all part of the process of developing. We're coming to terms with where we're at and what we need to do to be a better team. We're not pleased with some aspects but some of it is logical."
The Dragons have won just once on their travels so far this year - against bottom-of-the-table London Broncos - and have lost French captain Olivier Elima to injury, but Smith is wary of their attacking threat, particularly from pacy full-back Morgan Escare.
"He's terrific, as exciting as anybody in the game with the ball in his hand," Smith said. "He's electrifying and one of those who can get the crowd on its feet.
"He can do all sorts of things and it's a fantastic ability to have as a rugby league player. He's a danger and hopefully I don't enjoy watching him too much this week."
Wigan Warriors will be without eight regulars through injury, including England trio Sean O'Loughlin, Liam Farrell and Josh Charnley, for the game against Hull FC as they aim for a fifth successive win at the KC Stadium.
The Black and Whites are reeling from their shock home defeat by Wakefield Trinity Wildcats, but Warriors coach Shaun Wane is expecting them to raise their game for the visit of the champions.
"Hull have been very up and down but when they play well they are a threat," Wane said. "It's always a great game between the clubs and it is one I am really looking forward to.
"We have a few injuries but the players that will come in have all played well for me in the past and I am looking forward to the challenge. If we do what we do best and our attacking shape is good - and we normally play well at Hull - then we won't be far off.
"This will be a real tough game but it will be a tough game for them as well."
In Friday's other match, Widnes Vikings will be aiming to preserve their 100 per cent home record when Wakefield Trinity Wildcats visit the Select Security Stadium.
The Vikings have triumphed in all five matches on their own artificial turf so far this year but the Wildcats have won on both their two previous visits and are on a high following their 23-16 victory at Hull.
Wakefield will need to combat the threat of stand-off Kevin Brown if they are to post back-to-back victories, according to Widnes coach Denis Betts.
"Kevin's form for us is outstanding," Betts said. "He's scoring tries and settling up tries, he has a great kicking game and he's working hard in defence. He's at the top of his game."