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Burgess proud of Wolves despite defeat in first game

There was probably not much as a player which made Sam Burgess nervous, but Warrington Wolves’ rookie head coach admitted to feeling those gameday jitters in his first Betfred Super League game in charge.

After three months of pre-season training, the former England captain could do little else than leave it down to his charges as they opened their 2024 season away to last year’s Grand Final runners-up Catalans Dragons on Saturday evening.

Despite the hosts having Michael McIlorum sent off with barely one minute played in the second half, the Wolves were beaten 16-10 at a packed Stade Gilbert Brutus. Burgess, however, took pride in what he saw despite the loss and the pre-match nerves.

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Highlights of Catalans Dragons’ 16-10 win over Warrington Wolves in the Betfred Super League

“I was nervous – I’m probably more nervous as a coach than I am as player,” Burgess told Sky Sports. “I’m proud of them, so we’ll have to lick our wounds and get ready for next weekend.

“There are areas we can improve, but overall, I’m really proud of our attitude. It’s a tough place to come in Round 1, I thought they were really good.

“It was poor discipline at times, probably the red card affected us more than them and we lost our way a bit, but we’ll go again in six days.”

Arguably the biggest positive Burgess could take out the defeat was the performance of debutant three-quarter Arron Lindop, who was thrust into action in one of Super League’s most intimidating venues for visitors at the age of just 17.

Lindop shook off an early knock-on from a kick to open the scoring with a spectacular try, acrobatically diving over close to the right touchline and planting the ball down one-handed.

Burgess was left to rue other chances which went begging for Warrington though as Catalans battled to victory and the 35-year-old cited that as a work-on ahead of next Friday’s visit of Hull FC to the Halliwell Jones Stadium.

“They’re disappointed, they wanted to win,” Burgess said. “They put a lot of effort in, and I think when they look back they’ll probably realise they should have taken a few better opportunities.

“But that’s just sport and we’ve got to learn when we play again in six days’ time.”

Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com - 25/01/2024 - Rugby League - Betfred Super League - Warrington Media Day - The Halliwell Jones Stadium, Warrington, England - Arron Lindop.
Image: Arron Lindop was handed his Super League debut aged 17 by Sam Burgess

Having faced his former Bradford Bulls and England coach Steve McNamara in his first game at Warrington head coach, Burgess now comes up against one of his predecessors in the form of Tony Smith.

The Australian guided the Wolves to three Challenge Cup triumphs and three Grand Final appearances during his nine seasons at the helm, although lifting the trophy at Old Trafford proved elusive.

Burgess is the latest head coach to be charged with ending a league title drought which stands at 69 years and counting for Warrington and while he acknowledged there are areas to work on after the loss to Catalans, he still felt he had seen enough to believe there is more to come from the team.

“We probably didn’t match our intensity in the second half but it’s a great marker for Round 1 and something to work with,” Burgess said in his post-match press conference.

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“We prepped great, our process was good, but we need to tidy things up to help us to get the results. That is our challenge, and it has been for a number of years.

“I’m really happy with what I saw, I thought we showed great togetherness and I’m looking forward to next week.”

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Watch Warrington Wolves host Hull FC live on Sky Sports Action from 7.30pm on Friday, February 23 (8pm kick-off). Also stream the 2024 Betfred Super League season contract-free with NOW.

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