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RugbyL: Smith puts his trust in Wolves' cubs

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Warrington Wolves head coach Tony Smith is hoping his faith in youth will be rewarded when his side face their first big test of the Super League season against Wigan this weekend.

Smith's side, who lost in the Grand Final last season, are the bookies' tip to claim the first Super League crown in their history this time around.

But the favourites tag does not appear to be weighing heavy at the moment as the Wire have looked impressive in pre-season and in their 40-24 thumping of Castleford Tigers on the opening weekend.

This off-season Smith, the former St George Dragons stand-off, has opted to promote from within rather than splash the cash on one or two marquee signings.

In seasons gone by the likes of Joel and Michael Monaghan and more recently Trent Waterhouse have all arrived at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.

But with last season's League Leaders Shield winners Wigan welcoming the Wolves to the DW Stadium on Friday, Smith is confident his settled side are in a position to challenge for top honours this term.

"We haven't made any changes, apart from the promotion of young talent," Smith said.

"We think that's a real strength for us. They're more ready for the rigours of Super League than they were last year so we're really excited about that.

"We've got quite a number of senior players, as it's been pointed out to me, who are still doing all right.

"For some of them, they're getting towards their last chances to win one of those big ones -- on top of their experiences with the Challenge Cup."

Smith added: "Certainly for the young guys to learn about performing on the big stage -- I think all those things are good for us."

The Warriors themselves impressed on the opening weekend as they put Salford Reds to the sword in a 42-0 mauling, Sam Tomkins crossing for a hat-trick.

That Wigan victory marked the competitive debut of new half-back Blake Green, the former Cronulla Shark signing from Hull KR in pre-season.

After the return to the NRL of Thomas Leuluai and Brett Finch, Green will find himself shouldering plenty of the responsibility at half-back this season and the 26-year-old is relishing the prospect of Friday's match.

"The Wolves have got a really good squad with plenty of experience and some world-class players. It's going to be a big game for us," he said.

"At least we're only going to be two weeks in. We're going to be able to find out where we're at and the things that we need to work on."

Elsewhere, Castleford will look to bounce back when they take on defending champions Leeds on Sunday.

And Castleford coach Ian Millward is confident his side can upset a few people this season, starting with the Rhinos this weekend.

"I'm happy with my acquisitions and I've been excited by pre-season," he said. "We, like a lot of teams at the bottom from last year, will have question marks next to us and we'll have to see how we get on injury-wise.

"But I'm quite excited by the season -- I'm not going into it with any fear, put it that way.

"If a team like us doesn't have any injuries, we can surprise everyone."

Fixtures

Friday: Hull v Bradford (2000GMT), Wigan v Warrington (2000GMT)

Saturday: Catalans Dragons v Salford (1700GMT), Wakefield v Hull KR (1745GMT)

Sunday: Castleford v Leeds (1530GMT), Huddersfield v London Broncos (1500GMT), Widnes v St Helens (1500GMT)

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130206/rugbyl-smith-puts-his-trust-wolves-cubs