Levy Nzoungou – “I’ve been learning a lot”

Following Salford Red Devils’ 50-12 victory over Swinton Lions in our opening pre-season friendly of 2018 new signing Levy Nzoungou gave us his thoughts on the game.
Nzoungou, who is available for sponsorship, said: “The game went really well.”
He added: “I was happy with what I did on the field think I can work on a few things in attack but my defence was pretty good.
“I’ve still got a few things to work on like my fitness if I want to carry on getting a regular place in the team throughout the season.
“I’m really enjoying training and I was excited to play against Swinton and then the fans were great on Sunday which made it even better and a little easier.”
The former St Helens, Melbourne Storm and Toulouse Olympique forward admits as a youngster he is still learning but the environment at Salford is perfect for doing so.
Nzoungou said: “I’ve been learning a lot since I came to Salford and I’ve been learning loads from the guys in the middle like Mark Flanagan, Craig Kopczak and Luke Burgess throughout pre-season.
“The little stuff like throwing good passes and running clever lines it’s all helping me grow as a player and I’m sure it’ll continue.”
The Red Devils face Warrington Wolves in their second pre-season friendly of 2018 on Saturday and the French prop-forward is looking forward to it.
Nzoungou said: “I’m really excited to face Warrington next weekend I’m going to work hard in training to make sure I earn a place in the side.
“It’s going to be one of the big games as we are facing a Super League side and Warrington are a strong outfit.”
 
If you’d like to sponsor Levy Nzoungou for the duration of the 2018 season contact Fiona.Woods@SalfordRedDevils.net. 
Purchase your tickets for our pre-season game against Warrington at the Halliwell Jones Stadium by visiting the Club Ticket Office or phoning 0161 786 1570.

Ian Watson – “A few of them impressed me to be fair”

Following an impressive 50-12 victory over local rivals Swinton Lions, Salford Red Devils Head Coach Ian Watson praised the performances of his new additions. 
Levy Nzoungou, Ben Nakubuwai, Gavin Bennion, Jack Littlejohn and Derrell Olpherts all wore the Red Devils shirt for the first time and Watson was impressed with all of them.
Watson said: “A few of them impressed me to be fair. I thought Derrell took his opportunities well he was strong in his back field play as well.
“Levy did well as well when he came on in his spell he was good in his wrestle and ran strongly and was really difficult to put down but all of the guys have stepped up and put their hand up to say I’m here.”
“Gavin Bennion finished off with a nice try at the end there as well but we did have a bit of a scare at the beginning as we thought he’d done his neck but it seems alright now.
“So all the new guys who have come in on the backend of last season have adapted really well and jumped on board with what we’re trying to do and what we’re about as a Club so it’s good.”
Overall Watson was happy to give the majority of his squad a runout and help them continue to gel as a team under the pressure of an actual game.
Watson said: “It was important just to get a little bit of continuity between some of the guys and the spine of the team in a game situation so having a good run there and coming through it healthy is a big plus for us.
“I thought the way we kind of set up from the beginning the team outlined what we wanted to get out of the game which was to start well and we started really well and I’d say the teams application on the back of it was the main thing for us today.”
One player who didn’t feature despite being named in the matchday squad was Kriss Brining however Watson cleared up any injury worries surrounding the former York City Knights hooker.
Watson said: “Kriss Brining just had a little twinge in his neck but he’s fine if it had been a cup final he could have probably played but it was pointless risking him in a pre-season friendly when you’ve got Josh Wood playing the way he did and Logan out there as well.”

In the know – Swinton Lions

This year we’ll be introducing a new feature on our website called ‘In the Know’ which will see us quiz a journalist on our upcoming opponents and to start things Tom Bramwell (@tmbrmwll) of the Manchester Evening News has told us everything we need to know about Swinton Lions and Sunday’s game.

Swinton narrowly avoided the drop in 2017. What did you make of their season and their heroics to stay up?

I thought it was pretty incredible with everything that was going on off the field that the players could put in the performances they did and get the results they needed to stay in the Championship. To be totally honest, I just couldn’t see it happening, especially when John Duffy went to Featherstone and Chris Atkin’s move to Hull KR was brought forward. So much credit has to go to Stuart Littler for how he stepped up into the head coach role and helped the side to kick on – going to Odsal and getting that result against Bradford in his first match in charge is one that will live long in the memory.

The Lions have recruited quite heavily in pre-season. What do you make of their new signings and how do you think they can impact Swinton this year?

I’ve been very impressed with their recruitment, especially as no one was really sure what to expect because of the financial situation. Gabe Fell was long talked about as a future star at Wigan and I think if Sam Tomkins hadn’t returned, he’d have had plenty of chances in the first team by now, so he’ll be a good replacement for Jack Murphy. I haven’t seen much of Hayden Hansen who has come in from Redcliffe Dolphins in Australia, but I know the club are very excited to have him on board and think he can bring something special this season. George Tyson is the one that stands out for me though – I’ve been impressed whenever I’ve seen him play for Oldham or Sheffield and I’m sure working with Stuart Littler, who was such a good centre himself, will only help him develop his game even further.

Who do you think will be the key players for the Lions this season and why?

Josh Barlow has re-signed and he often gives the team a big lift, whether it’s breaking the line, getting an offload away or putting in a big hit, so I think he can be really important – provided he keeps his discipline in check! Mike Butt had a fantastic 2017 season and I’d expect him to get plenty of chances to demonstrate his finishing skills this year with centres like Tyson, Chris Hankinson and Rhodri Lloyd playing inside of him.

There has been a lot of activity of the field. Do you think the Lions can stabilise progress both this season and going forward in the coming year?

A lot of the signs coming out of the club are really, really positive – particularly the launch of the Swinton Lions Academy with The Rugby College and more progress with the development at Agecroft. I think Andy Mazey is doing a great job as chairman to steady the ship after such a turbulent time last year, and in Stephen Wild they’ve got a director who is incredibly passionate about the club and has a wealth of experience in the financial sector – I’m confident the club is in good hands and it’s no more than the fans deserve, especially after all their fundraising efforts last year.

Of course, there’s a lot of history between the Clubs added to by Stuart Littler and Ian Watson being coaches. How good is it to see the derby back and what does it bring?

Local rivalries are one of the things that make this sport so great and this derby is no different. I’m sure the players and staff on both sides are excited to be able to kick off their pre-season games with a match that will be this fiercely contested – there’s no friendlies in rugby league really, is there? It seems the two clubs have a fantastic relationship off the field though, but with Stuart and Ian having played and coached together, that probably shouldn’t be much of a surprise.

How do you see the game going?

It’s always a bit of an unknown kicking off pre-season, but with so many new recruits, I won’t be expecting Swinton to look anything close to the finished article. The warm-up matches they’ve got lined up will be all about building up the relationships and understanding between the players, as well as their fitness. For Salford, I’m really keen to see how Rob Lui and Jack Littlejohn get on in the halves, because I think that partnership will be the key to the entire season. Hopefully, we’ll also get a look at Levy Nzoungou and Ben Nakubuwai because I expect they will be further examples of more really astute recruitment from Ian and his coaching staff.

Score prediction: Salford 24-10 Swinton.

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