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Wolves boss prepares to face friend McNamara

Tony Smith Photo:

Warrington coach Tony Smith is preparing to face a fully fired-up Catalans Dragons as Steve McNamara returns to Super League this weekend.

Former Bradford and England coach McNamara was unveiled as the new head coach of the out-of-form French side earlier this week.

He takes over a team who, like Warrington, have slipped into the bottom four and could face a battle to avoid relegation if they cannot get climb into the top eight in the coming five weeks.

Crucial points are at stake for both clubs as they meet at the Halliwell Jones Stadium on Saturday and Smith, whose 10th-placed side have been particularly underwhelming, is wary of an immediate Dragons bounce.

He said: "Whether a coach coming in changes everything you do in one week - sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't - is down to their form.

"But we're preparing as though they're going to play their very best rugby league, and we've just got to play better."

Smith knows McNamara well. Prior to being elevated to England coach in 2010, McNamara was Smith's assistant with the national side.

Smith said: "He's a good friend of mine, a good coach and I'm pleased for him. I'm sure he'll do a good job there.

"We've coached with and against each before. We have a healthy respect for each other but it is my job to get my team over the top of his this week. That's what we'll be focused on."

Warrington, who were beaten in the Challenge Cup quarter-finals by Wigan last weekend, have lost their last four Betfred Super League games and not won in five. They have attempted to rejuvenate their squad by signing two new backs in Peta Hiku and Ben Pomeroy but neither are available for selection this week.

The Dragons' form is even worse with just one win in their last eight. They have conceded at least 50 points twice in their last four games.

McNamara, who has also had jobs with Sydney Roosters and New Zealand Warriors since last working in Super League seven years ago, said: "Tony is a good friend. He has had a great career as a coach. His team is not where he wants them to be, also.

"It is a big game for both teams. It is quite clear, that by looking at the ladder, it is important for both teams to perform well and get the two points."

Smith had been linked with the vacancy at the Dragons prior to McNamara's appointment but he has made clear that speculation was unhelpful.

He said: "Some journalists decided to write that and everyone picked that up. My wife rang me and said a friend had asked her if we were moving to France. That was the first I'd heard of it.

"Instead of someone asking, 'Is there any truth in this?' they decide to write it. Then my players start to think... It was unpleasant. But it's all part of it. I'm not irritated about it. I see a lot of it."