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8th June 2019, 10:11 | Hullkr

Smith aiming to improve Hull KR defence without blunting attack

Smith aiming to improve Hull KR defence without blunting attack

New Hull KR coach Tony Smith will aim to improve the worst defence in Betfred Super League but without blunting their attacking flair as he prepares for his first match in charge.

Smith, chosen in midweek to succeed Tim Sheens, has been given four months to keep Hull KR in Super League and it all begins against reigning champions Wigan Warriors at KCOM Craven Park on Sunday.

Smith was absent from the game for 18 months after ending his record nine-year stint at Warrington Wolves but has kept in touch well enough to know where Rovers’ problems lie.

“I love how they attack,” he said. “Obviously they have got a few issues in defence and we’ll focus on that whilst trying to maintain that attacking flair.

“There is some good talent, capabilities are there, but there is scope for improvement.”

Rovers are just two points above bottom club London Broncos, who host leaders St Helens in Sunday’s other game, and their predicament worsened with victory by fellow strugglers Leeds Rhinos at Wakefield Trinity on Friday night but Smith is unconcerned.

“We’d like to be further up the table but it’s a good opportunity to work hard and get out of it and I’m looking forward to it,” Smith said.

“I’m looking forward to looking down a few places rather than looking up and we’ll work hard to make that happen.”

Smith was not due to meet the players for the first time until the day before the game and will initially rely heavily on assistant coaches James Webster and David Hodgson, who kept their jobs following the sacking of Sheens.

But one man needing little introduction to Smith is veteran half-back Danny McGuire, who played under the former England boss during his four seasons at Leeds and will take up the role of recruitment manager when he hangs up his boots at the end of the year.

“He’s a quality person and a quality player,” Smith said. “I’m looking forward to having a strong relationship with Danny. We’ve kept in touch over the years.

“He’s a player I’ve admired. He’s getting to the twilight but he knows the game very well and he plays a great leadership role in the team.

“I’ll certainly be bending his ear, but some of the others, I will have to get to know. But that won’t take long, it’s part of my focus for the next couple of weeks.”

The clash with Wigan will be the first of three meetings with the reigning champions in the second half of the season and Smith is looking forward to sampling the Craven Park atmosphere with the crowd behind him.

“It was always daunting coming to Craven Park, it’s a challenge for anybody,” he said.

“I’m looking forward to being on the same side. They’re very passionate about their team.

“They’ve had ups and downs but they always turn up and stick together and they get behind their team.”