St Helens head coach Paul Wellens has warned his players to be at their best with the prospect of facing a ‘much improved’ Warrington side at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.
The reigning champions head into the Super League Round 18 clash with five wins in their last six league fixtures, promoting them to a play-off spot with fifth position.
Just two points separate the Saints and opponents Warrington, who started the year flying with an unbeaten run of eight games before defeat to Wigan in Round Nine.
Daryl Powell’s side have since endured a horror dip in form, with just one win in their last five, as well as back-to-back defeats to Castleford and Leeds respectively.
George Williams has admitted that he will miss the televised crunch clash on Friday, while Sam Kasiano and James Harrison will serve their respective suspensions.
“When you’re missing key players, you know a little bit less about the opposition and that can be dangerous,” Wellens said on Warrington.
“You only have to look back to Round 10 when Warrington came to us and I think both teams were missing a lot of players on that night and it probably presents a different challenge.
“No doubt Daryl Powell will be the same as me, you want your more experienced and better players out there as often as possible. But part and parcel of the Super League season is dealing with those hardships when they come along and being able to find a performance and find a result when your backs are against the wall.
“That’s what we expect Warrington to turn up and try and do and we’ve got to go and deliver our best to try and stop that from happening.”
Paul Wellens: Warrington were ‘unbelievably competitive’ against Leeds
Friday’s hosts most recently fell to a 22-6 defeat to Leeds at the Halliwell Jones Stadium, although Wellens says the Wolves remained competitive, with Rohan Smith’s Rhinos securing an early 16-0 lead in the opening 15, before Warrington scored the next points almost 50 minutes later.
57-year-old coach Powell admitted his side are low on troops and are feeling the impact both in training and on game days, but will be hoping to see the best of his side for the televised Friday night fixture against the world champions.
Wellens continued: “I watched the game against Leeds on the weekend and whilst Leeds got off to a flying start, I thought Warrington remained really competitive throughout the 80 minutes and but for the first 15 minutes, really stood up strong.
“People can make a lot more about that performance and that result but actually when you strip it back and look at the reality at it, they were unbelievably competitive.
“Look, they coughed up a lot of possession and made it really difficult for themselves, so I’m sure there are areas that they’ve been working on in the week.
“We’ll be turning up preparing to play a much improved Warrington team.”