Smith gives qualified support to Warrington’s young half-backs

Warrington coach Tony Smith has given a cautious backing to Gary Wheeler and Gareth O’Brien, after the two players turned in average displays against Catalans Dragons last week.

The Wolves lost 38-18 in France, but Smith, whose current half-back options are somewhat curtailed by injuries, believes that both Wheeler and O’Brien will be looking to bounce back.

It looks likely that the two youngsters will be linking up together again when Warrington welcome Hull KR to the Halliwell Jones Stadium on Sunday.

“I don’t think either one of those young half-backs would like to be judged on their performance from the weekend,” Smith said.

“However, they’ll probably both get another go at getting to put it right.

“But both didn’t have their best games, it was patchy for both at best.

“So hopefully this week they can get a bit more combination going with each other and a little bit more understanding.

“They were a little bit off the pace, and a little bit off what’s required at this level.

“But having said that, there’s not a lot of options at the moment. Richie Myler‘s just had a hernia operation, and he’ll be out for the next four or so weeks.

“Those two boys will get a shot at it and we’ll see how they go on this week.”

As for the heavy defeat in Perpignan, Smith acknowledged that his players had had a tough few weeks leading up to the game.

As well as the World Club Series defeat to St George-Illawarra, the Wolves had played two tough Super League games in the weeks before the trip to France.

“It’s not just that game against St George, we’ve had three really tough games,” Smith explained.

“A tough encounter against Hull the week before it that ended 7-6, Salford certainly made us work in week one, they really came here and gave it a shot.

“So we’ve had some pretty tough fixtures on the bounce, and sometimes something gives, and unfortunately it was us.”

Sunday’s opponents last week played well to beat Wigan 22-20, and Smith is wary of a Hull KR attack which carries plenty of threat.

Smith also feels that the Robins are going to improve further over the coming weeks, as their new players bed in to their defensive structures.

“Most people would have agreed that Hull KR were going to improve as the season went on, from their intitial start, because they’ve pretty much got a new team,” he said.

“Or a huge part of a new team, so it was always going to take them some time to gel and come together with their new combinations, and new half-backs.

“They’ve got some terrific players right across the board, and now we’re seeing what they’re capable of.

“They knocked off Wigan last week, and came home really strongly, so we’ll have to be really careful throughout the whole game on the weekend.

“They’ll take some time to have understanding in defence, and understanding of the people around you.

“That takes some time to develop. I’m sure they’ll be working on those things.

“But this week there’s enough for us to think about in fixing our own stuff, rather than worrying too much about some of our opponents’ strengths or weaknesses.

“We’ll certainly have a look at what they did against Wigan, but there’s a big focus on improving standards for ourselves.”

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