Huddersfield Giants and their Super League rivals have been warned Warrington Wolves will come snarling back.
England forward Mike Cooper has sought to reassure Warrington fans there will be no repeat of the club’s battle against relegation despite their disappointing start to the season.
The Wolves go to Widnes tomorrow aiming to get off the mark at the third attempt following defeats by Leeds and Rick Stone’s Giants in the first two rounds of the 2018 Betfred Super League.
Their bad start has inevitably brought back memories of 2017, when Warrington began the season with six straight league defeats and never recovered as they were forced to battle for their lives in the Super 8s Qualifiers.
“People are asking is it going to be like last year, but that’s certainly not the case,” said Cooper.
“We’re just not giving ourselves a chance in the games because we’re conceding too many errors and penalties.
“We should probably have won the first game against Leeds but last week was a complete write-off, it was nowhere near the standard we have set.
“But sometimes that happens and it’s how you respond to it.
“We have an expectation as a club. The pressure on the outside is never going to be as great as it is inside.
“We are making changes in the way the club is run and the standards that we set and the way that we play is completely different to last year.
“We’ve not had players training in key positions - there’s load of excuses, reasons why this might have happened but, as long as we keep working hard and keep believing in what we’re doing, we’ll be fine.”
The season does not get any easier for the Wolves, who face a Widnes side who invariably raise their game for the derby and have made an impressive start to the season with a resounding win over Catalans Dragons and a narrow defeat at Castleford.
“Widnes are always a tough team to play against,” Cooper said. “They work hard for each other and they play some good attacking rugby on the i-pitch.”
Catalans coach Steve McNamara, the former Giants man, raised concerns over the Vikings’ synthetic playing surface following his side’s 40-12 defeat but Cooper is actually looking forward to running out on it.
“I like playing on it, it doesn’t bother me,” he said. “I’d play on the car park.
“You are certainly going to pick up more injuries because it’s a harder surface but it’s like that in the summer. On a dry day and the ground is rock hard, there’s no difference. It’s like in Australia.”
Warrington have won their last nine meetings with Widnes, whose last derby success was in April, 2015, but Vikings coach Denis Betts says all the pressure is on Steve Price’s men.
“They’re in a dangerous position because they need a win,” Betts said.
“They’re probably looking at this fixture thinking it’s their chance to get a win.
“We’ve put two good performances together and now we’ve got to get a third.”
The Giants, of course, don’t play until next Friday, February 23, when they are at home to St Helens.