Ian Watson | “We want to attack straight from the beginning”

As Salford Red Devils head over to France to face Catalan Dragons on Saturday, Head Coach Ian Watson takes a positive mindset in the hope that his side can bring home two points.

On last weekend’s game against St Helens…

I thought there was loads of positives from playing the best team in the competition at the moment, who everyone’s tipped to win the Grand Final. We competed in large parts and for the first 20 minutes of the game we were really good – really good arm wrestle and we were finishing our sets well in that period.
They just maintained theirs a lot longer and continued to finish the sets really well in corners and upped the line speed defensively. They won the field position through the defence – I thought the defence was outstanding on the day.
For us, a lot of positives. We were a hell of a lot better defensively in the second half and started to dominate on the field position. We just needed to do it straight from the start of the game and have that mentality to stay in those arm wrestles with the top teams for longer.

On Salford’s defence…

It’s a big focus for us as a team and for the lads individually. They want to be known for the defence and they want to build a reputation on having good defence, especially on the back of the chase. Its where the teams win the field position on the back of the early tackles.
We’ve spoken about it this year and we know for four halves of football this year we’ve nilled teams which is a big plus for us as a team, where we’re saying that we really want to be represented in our defence.

On this week’s preparations…

We’ve had a great week after a few niggles after the Saints game, which you get after playing against some of the best teams because they’re tough games like that when they’re pretty much an arm wrestle mentality.
Theres a few players that we’ll assess as we go forward on through the week but the early parts of the sessions from Monday into today and Wednesday, we’ve had two great sessions so hopefully we can take that forward now.

On the squad…

We’ll take Adam Lawton with us this time, so he’ll be in the 20-squad that we take over with us. He’s been doing really well at Rochdale so he’ll put competition on our middles, as will Adam Walker.
With us knowing that he’s back the following week will put more pressure on the players to make sure they’re performing and doing their job because Adam’s a known quality middle so we’ll want to feature him as soon as we can once his bans over. It’s up to the boys to go out there and put their best performance out there so they maintain the place for the following week.

On Saturday’s game against Catalan Dragons…

Catalan are a tough team, it’s a tough place to go. Our records not great over there for the past couple of years so we want to go across there with a real positive mindset and attack that straight from the beginning. We want to do that in attack and in defence so we’re looking to go with a positive performance and try and get the win there this year, but we know it’s a real tough ask to do that and we need to be at our best to do it.
It’ll build on the performance of St Helens. I thought St Helens was a really good performance in terms of our attitude and our effort when playing against the top teams. What we need to do is show that against Catalan and show that we can compete against the best teams, week in and week out because Catalan were up there last year and they won the cup. They had a great performance against Warrington last week, so if we can go out there and set our stall out then I think it’ll bode well for the rest of the season.

On the fans…

I think the support has been great this year and the players talk about it as well! I keep talking about the away games because you can consistently hear them all the time. They’re in good voice and they’re really positive and behind the players when they’re at the games.
The home games have been really loud and vocal and it’s good to see more supporters coming through the turnstiles. We’ve always had a good following go to Catalan so hopefully we can reward those fans with a victory this time.

Ian Watson | “It’s a case of bouncing back from last week”

In a contest which finds both teams with the same number of wins, and sitting adjacently to each other in the league table, Salford’s visit to East Hull, on Saturday promises to be a mouth-watering encounter. 
Head Coach Ian Watson offers his thoughts ahead of the clash…

On opponents Hull KR…

Victories at Hull KR are always hard to come by, but in recent seasons we have had won some extremely important clashes there, such as last season’s victory in the Qualifiers, and Saturday’s game there is important now because it is the next one on the fixture list.
Rover have spent well during the close season, Mitch Garbutt being one of the players they have strengthened their squad with, alongside others such as Jimmy Keinhorst and Ryan Lannon, while their Head Coach, Tim Sheens is very attack minded.

On Sunday’s defeat against Leeds…

We allowed Leeds to determine the pace of the game, and that turned the momentum in their favour.  We, then, compounded that situation with further errors such as immediately kicking off into dead, on the full, and running offside at another kick-off both of which led to further spells of goal line pressure.
What we should have done was to have turned the pressure back onto Leeds, but that didn’t happen until we had good spell at the start of the second half, which culminated in our scoring.
The sinbinning later on, though, really hurt us, not so much whilst we were down to twelve men, but in the knock-on effect, in the later part of the game.  Nevertheless, at sixty minutes, having not played at all well, and having been down to twelve men for ten minutes, we were still in the game against a talented side like Leeds.

On the impact on the week’s training…

We didn’t give a true representation of what we are all about, last week, and that has hurt us all, considerably, so we need to rectify it quickly.  This weekend will be all about us making a big improvement and making sure we get the defensive side of our game back on track because basically if you don’t defend you don’t win games.
The players were all extremely disappointed, and there was also the feeling that they had not done justice to themselves, nor lived up to the standards we had set ourselves.

On the trip to Humberside…

Clubs all like to win their home games, and KCOM Craven Park has always been a difficult place to go to.  Hull KR will undoubtedly have set out to win all of their home games and that will certainly be the case for this weekend, so we will have to be prepared for a tough match, by going and performing as we did in the first two rounds.  It’s a case of bouncing back from last week.
We are just taking it one game at a time, and getting the points on Saturday is our key objective.  We’ve got to go out and put our best foot forward to give everyone a reminder of what we are working to become.
Tickets for Saturday’s game against Hull Kingston Rovers are still available from the The Salford Stadium Ticket Office and over the phone on 0161 786 1570. You can also book coach travel for this fixture by visiting the The Salford Stadium Ticket Office and over the phone on 0161 786 1570. Salford Red Devils retain 25% of any early ticket purchase. To see ticket prices and coach pick-up times and points, click HERE.

Ian Watson | “We are confident as a team”

Victories over Huddersfield and London in Rounds One & Two have set up a thrilling clash with a Leeds Rhinos side which is still looking for its first league points of the season.
Two rock-solid, all round team performances have seen the Red Devils not only with a maximum four points, but when taking into account points difference, sitting proudly at the top of Super League, going into Sunday’s fixture, none of which has escaped the attention of Head Coach, Ian Watson.

On Leeds’s Need for A Win…

“Leeds have had a really tough start to the season, against teams which many a side would struggle against, so I am pretty sure that they will have targeted this week’s game as the one in which they must get their first win. It will be up to us to ensure that we don’t allow them to do that.
“We are well-focused on what we have to do, and the lads are really excited for this one, because we have done our job in both of the first two matches but this one is going to be the real test. Leeds have recruited really well in the close season, which with their resources they can do, but we are really confident and are going to put our best foot forward.”

On Our Recent Performances…

“We have built our season on team effort and individual commitment to the team, all of which has come through in our opening games.  It will be no different this week because if we are to beat Leeds, we shall have to do it as a team. As individuals we all have our own jobs to do in our own individual roles, but these all come together to give us our team performance.
“The London match showed this, last week. We knew that they would come here and put in a really determined team effort, so we had had to ensure that our attitude and mentality were absolutely right. As a result, the lads countered them with a completely solid, professional performance, and so got the result.”

On Keeping London Scoreless…

“With a fairly low half-time scoreline, we spoke about not getting frustrated, being patient and sticking to our processes, because we knew they were a team which would defend as if their lives depended upon it. We were, consequently, able to nil the opposition for the first time since 2007, when we prevented Catalans from scoring.”

On Topping The League Table…

“We are only two games in, and we have done what we have had to do in those two games, but that is a different proposition for being at the top after twenty-nine games. If we were, we would be absolutely jumping around all over the place.
“Let us just take one game at a time, as we have been doing, because it was only a couple of seasons ago that Widnes were unbeaten at the start of the season until they came here, and after they had lost to us they went for some considerable time without winning again, and ended up in the Qualifiers.
“None of the players has even spoken about the league; it’s just too early in the season. There are other teams with four points from two wins anyway, so it is far more important that we just keep our focus on beating Leeds. It would be nice to make it three wins out of three, because you want to be winning every game you play. We are confident as a team and are happy with everything we have done in preparation, so on we go into the game.”
Salford Red Devils 2019 Season Tickets are still available to purchase from the Club Ticket Office, over the phone on 0161 786 1570 or online HERE. You can spread the cost via Direct Debit payments, for more details, click HERE. Season Tickets will now be at a reduced price on a pro-rata basis.

Ian Watson | “This will be a good benchmark for us”

Salford Red Devils got the 2019 Betfred Super League off to a winning start and we caught up with Head Coach Ian Watson ahead of the sides first home game of the season against London Broncos.
On recent encounters with the Broncos…
Our recent history with London is not that great, as they have won the last two matches we had against them in the Qualifiers. In the first one, here, three seasons ago, Jamie Soward kicked us to death, and then Jarrod Sammut did exactly the same at their ground last year, but I know that we will be better this time, because we are a better side now than we were then.
It isn’t only Salford wo have fallen victim to them, though. Wakefield were caught out last weekend, but I think that result tells you more about London than it does about Wakefield. They have a smaller pack than the majority of clubs and so they are very quick across the ground, and of course at home they are always playing on a 4G pitch, so I, for one, was not surprised as to how competitive they were, even though I thought Wakefield would have won.
As far as our game is concerned, we know that they will come and try to grind us down and we are just going to have to muscle up to that. They also have this habit of coming from behind from a point at which turning the game around would appear to be a vain hope, but somehow, they seem to manage it
That happened, not only last week, but also in their first visit to Toronto in the Qualifiers, and it all goes to show the truly competitive nature of their players. I know quite a lot of their team, and know that they are people who just love playing the game to win and are never put off by the reputation of whichever team they happen to be up against.  That makes them very difficult to play against.
On a winning start to the season…
It’s always good to get that first win, and although there were one or two things we could have improved upon, particularly the way we started, we did build our way into the game, and more of our systems started coming through.
From that point on we had the game under control, but in the first half we bombed a few chances because we weren’t clinical enough, and so errors prevented us from scoring.
Huddersfield, on the other hand started off really well, and in some respects should have come away with more than just the penalty goal they kicked, but credit to our lads for the way they defended and kept their line intact.
Even though it was the first game of the season, both teams had their injury problems but there were two really good, representative, sides out there last week, and we were good enough to come away with the points.
On the first home game of the season…
We took a really good away following to Huddersfield, so hopefully, on the back of that win, we will attract even more than might have turned up, otherwise. I thought our fans were absolutely outstanding. They made a considerable amount of noise – much louder than the home fans did.
This is going to be a really good benchmark for us, on Sunday. It will show me just how we compare with last season’s performance at London, as a group, and with mental steel. We will also be able to assess to what extent the players, who have come in, have added to us.
It would be great to get a packed house, because we do play an attractive brand of rugby, show physicality and determination in defence, and with the introduction of the shotclock, the game is taking a much more reasonable period of time than in recent seasons. We will endeavour to put on a great performance in order to attract them all back again the following week.

Salford Red Devils 2019 Season Tickets are still available to purchase from the Club Ticket Office, over the phone on 0161 786 1570 or online HERE.You can spread the cost via Direct Debit payments, for more details, click HERE.

Ian Watson | “We’re definitely excited.”

Ahead of tomorrow’s pre-season friendly against Swinton Lions, Salford Red Devils Head Coach Ian Watson gave his thoughts on a variety of topics including pre-season, his squad and this weekend’s opponents.

On getting back underway…

“We’re really excited. We’ve got through all the tough stuff in pre-season and now it’s time to get started and now it’s about what we can do on the field and seeing where we are at particularly in regard to the start of the Betfred Super League season and fine tuning those last little details. But, we’re definitely excited.”

On the fixture…

“Salford vs Swinton doesn’t happen all that often anymore so it’s always good when we get to go head-to-head. It’s going to be a great occasion at the The Salford Stadium and I’m hoping we see a big crowd to support the lads for the first game of 2019.”

On squad selection…

“We’ll go strong. The lads who’ve impressed in pre-season will get first shot because you get rewarded and some of the lads have really put their hands up in pre-season. Jake Bibby has come on leaps and bounds while Ed Chamberlain has been outstanding since he joined. We will give the majority of them a game, but we may hold a few back for our second pre-season game against Wigan Warriors next weekend.”

On the two triallists…

“We’ve got young Connor Davies-Aspey who is 16 years old and is from our Salford Red Devils Education Academy team. It’s a big plus for the Salford Red Devils Foundation that he has come in and trained with us and he’s done really well. We’ve decided to give him a one-month trial and maybe hand him an appearance this weekend against Swinton.
“The other triallist is Calvin Wellington who came through the ranks at St Helens and has been away playing Rugby Union. Hgot a very good background. We’ll see how he goes against Swinton.”

On a few injuries…

“Both Josh Wood and Logan Tomkins picked up injuries at the backend of last season and are still recovering.
“Josh Wood has been in full-time training with the squad, but he needs to up his contact a little more before we can give him a game. He’s a little behind schedule for where we need him to be but in the next month, we’ll start to get him where we need him to be.
“Logan Tomkins has missed all of pre-season out on the field and his injury is just about us making sure we get him to the right stage so that he doesn’t struggle again on his return.”

On Swinton Lions…

“Swinton have rebuilt really well, and they’ve got a strong squad. Of course, they’ve signed Gavin Bennion who was with us last season, so he is going to want to have a big game and they’ve got a few other players with Salford links so it’s going to be interesting.”
Tickets for the game are still available to purchase and you can do so prior to the game from the The Salford Stadium Ticket Office. You can also purchase over the phone on 0161 786 1570 or by simply clicking HERE.
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Ian Watson | “We must focus on what we do well”

It has become more than apparent that as the individual rounds of the Qualifiers have unfolded the performances by this weekend’s opponents, London Broncos, have earmarked them as the surprise package of the tournament and they are a team Head Coach Ian Watson is very impressed by, also. 
Watson said: “They have a really good attitude and are a real credit to coaches, Danny Ward and Jamie Langley. They are both up for the Championship’s Coach of the Year award which shows what a great down they’ve done.
“When former coach Andrew Henderson left to join Warrington a number of players also moved on and it was widely expected the team would struggle this season, but they have improved on last season finishing second and are up for the Championship’s Team of the Year.
“They never give up and just keep grinding away, even when they have fallen twenty points behind.”
London Broncos caused an upset in the opening game of The Qualifiers when they knocked off Betfred Super League outfit Widnes Vikings  thanks to a late Jarrod Sammut drop-goal and Watson knows the threat the maverick halfback poses.
Watson said: “That is exactly his style of play and you just have to expect anything from him when he gets the ball. Alongside that though, the really noticeable thing is they stick to their processes and game plans extremely well and even Jarrod has bought into that too.
“All the players and backroom staff have stuck together to turn all the negative predictions on their head, and for me, they have the potential to be even more dangerous than either Toronto or Toulouse. They have been in contention in every game they have played.
“Both Toronto and Leeds felt that they had put themselves in commanding positions, but London came back at them and put them under real pressure, not only on the field but also on the scoreboard. They absolutely blew Toulouse away, and beat Super League opponents Widnes on the road.
“This game could be a real banana skin for us so we absolutely have to get our preparations right and then focus on what we do well.”
Jackson Hastings will serve the second of a two-game ban this weekend while Josh Wood – who occupied the role last week at the Emerald Headingley Stadium – is now suffering with an injury however Watson will welcome back another halfback option this weekend.
Watson said: “I thought all the boys who played did really well at Leeds. They knew they would have to do it tough, but they really stuck with all their processes and showed belief in them.
“Josh Wood, until his injury, did a really good job, in place of Jackson, while Rob Lui played particularly well and managed the game impeccably throughout along with Joey Lussick.
“Jack Littlejohn wasn’t quite ready last week and there was no point in taking risks at that stage of his recovery, but the extra week has been good for him and he is now fully fit and looking forward to the game on Saturday.”
It has been a difficult week off the field with a late rearrangement of Saturday’s fixture and the team are not impervious to these events in terms of preparation.
“It has affected things like being able to book hotels and coaches,” Watson said.
He added: “This has been a bit of nightmare because on a Saturday there is competition from football and rugby union, who have already got in first, so you end up having to adapt all your plans around what is left to you.
“We certainly couldn’t so without the money Sky Sports put in though so we just have to take the rough with the smooth.
“As far as playing is concerned, our training schedule is pretty well set, and we have a great backroom staff who are able to adjust things and minimise the effects on the players, but they also know that having to be flexible is part of being a professional.”

Preview | Salford Red Devils vs Toronto Wolfpack | Saturday 8th August

Ahead of this weekend’s huge Qualifiers clash with Toronto Wolfpack, we take a look at everything you need to know ahead of the game. 
Last Time Out
Last weekend the Red Devils earned their biggest victory of the season in front of almost 1000 travelling Salford fans. Ian Watson’s men racked up a huge 4-62 victory over Halifax which moved them two points clear atop The Qualifiers table.
Sam Wood opened the scoring for Halifax, but Salford would run in twelve unanswered tries on the way to a memorable victory. Derrell Olpherts crossed for his first hat-trick in Salford colours while Jackson Hastings and Junior Sa’u also notched doubles. Ed Chamberlain, Ben Nakubuwai, Kris Welham, Lama Tasi and Josh Wood were all also on the scoresheet.

As for Toronto, they overcame fellow Championship side London Broncos at Lamport Stadium moving them onto four points in The Qualifiers. The Wolfpack raced into a massive 32-0 lead thanks to tries from Blake Wallace, Gareth O’Brien, Chase Stanley, Josh McCrone and Mason Caton-Brown.
However, with 25 minutes remaining, London began a fightback which would see Rhys Williams, Alex Walker, Ben Evans and Matt Davis all score before the hooter, however they couldn’t quite earn a point.
Salford Red Devils head into this game in their best form of the 2018 season having won their opening three Qualifiers fixtures and four consecutive games overall. Ian Watson’s side ended the regular season with a morale lifting victory over Leeds before beating fellow Super League sides Hull Kingston Rovers and Widnes Vikings in The Qualifiers.
Last weekend’s huge 4-62 victory over Halifax marked the first time the side have won four consecutive games since midway through the 2017 season.
Toronto head into this weekend’s game on the back of a home victory over London Broncos but their form in recent weeks hasn’t been as consistent as throughout the rest of the 2018 season. The Wolfpack only lost one game in their opening 22 matches of this season but have since lost two of their last four in all competitions.
The Wolfpack ended the regular season with their first defeat on Canadian soil as Featherstone were victorious and it became back-to-back home losses for Toronto in their second Qualifiers outing as Hull Kingston Rovers edged them out at Lamport Stadium.
This weekend will see Niall Evalds go head-to-head in the fullback position against former teammate Gareth O’Brien who moved to Toronto from the Red Devils earlier in the season.
Evalds returned to the Red Devils squad last month following an eight-week lay-off with a broken leg and has fit straight back into the fold with the form he displayed earlier in the season. The fullback always offers a threat in attack and now with the likes of Rob Lui, Jackson Hastings and Joey Lussick opening defences up he simply has to be on their shoulder.
For Toronto, O’Brien has impressed since his arrival from Salford earlier in the season and will play a pivotal role if the Wolfpack are to gain Super League status. O’Brien has a dangerous running game pulling defenders in and allowing him to rack up try-assists. Of course, the former Warrington man also has a place in Qualifiers history thanks to his drop-goal which saved the Red Devils in 2016.
With two dangerous and clinical fullbacks on show it will be a case of whichever gets the most opportunities to punish their opponents and possibly win the game for their team.
Team News:
Salford Red Devils forward George Griffin is named in this week’s 19-man squad and could return to action for the first time since defeat at Warrington at the end of June. Lee Mossop could also be in line to return after missing out last weekend against Halifax.
Luke Burgess made an impressive return at the MBi Shay Stadium and retains his place in the Red Devils squad this weekend. However, Ben Nakubuwai will miss the game through a shoulder injury.
Salford: Kris Welham, Junior Sa’u, Niall Evalds , Rob Lui, George Griffin, Josh Jones, Mark Flanagan, Lama Tasi, Ryan Lannon, Luke Burgess, Tyrone McCarthy, Josh Wood, Derrell Olpherts, Lee Mossop, Jake Bibby, Ed Chamberlain, Greg Burke, Jackson Hastings, Joey Lussick.
Toronto: Gary Wheeler, Josh McCrone, Jack Buchanan, Bob Beswick, Ashton Sims, Andrew Dixon, Adam Sidlow, Blake Wallace, Olsi Krasniqi, Richard Whiting, Nick Rawsthorne, Cory Paterson, Jacob Emmitt, Matty Russell, Gareth O’Brien, Darcy Lussick, Chase Stanley, Mason Caton-Brown.
Table Permutations
Salford are currently the only team to win all three of their Qualifiers fixtures meaning they currently sit two points above the chasing pack. It would take a Salford defeat and a big point overhaul from one of the four teams currently on four points to move the Red Devils from the top spot heading into Round Five.
Toronto occupy 3rd place heading into this weekend’s fixture and are level on points with Leeds Rhinos, Toulouse Olympique and Hull Kingston Rovers. The Wolfpack would need a win by 83 points to climb to top spot but they could pull away from the rest of the field if they were to better the results of Leeds, Toulouse or Hull Kingston Rovers.
Welcome the Wolfpack! 
Tickets for our next home game against Toronto Wolfpack on Saturday 8th September are available to purchase at the Club Ticket Office, over the phone on 0161 786 1570 or SAVE MONEY by buying online, just CLICK HERE.

Ian Watson | “It will centre on our attitude, professionalism and discipline”

This weekend’s opponents Halifax are yet to register a win in the Qualifiers however Head Coach Ian Watson knows the talent and danger they possess ahead of Sunday’s clash at the MBi Shay.
Watson said: “Thinking back to a couple of years ago, Halifax did really well in this competition and in Widnes and Leigh they beat a couple of teams they hadn’t expected to beat. I think that they will shock a couple of teams again this time, so it means we will have to be completely up to speed on Sunday.
“I really enjoyed playing there in my playing days because the pitch is immaculate and enables you to produce good rugby. We are going to go to enjoy playing there.
“The danger for us is that having lost those early couple of games Halifax will be keen to get some points. They have been used to winning all season, and we know that they have some good systems in place and some really good, experienced players in their team.
“We simply have to be aware of the threats they pose to us, but equally aware of the threats we can pose to them.
“I do watch quite a lot of Championship games so I am well aware of the players in there and know just what Halifax are going to throw at us, how they play, and how their systems work. I also know their coach Richard Marshall. They do like to express themselves but it will all centre upon our attitude, professionalism and discipline.”
Salford head into this weekend’s clash on the back of two Qualifiers victories against Hull Kingston Rovers and Widnes Vikings.
“The lads have shown good game management, which is taking account of the playing conditions, knowing when to kick, and when to run the ball.
“We have a really good balance within the spine of the team now, and this is showing itself to be the most consistent it has been all season, as they have grown to know one another and build relationships among themselves which is good for the whole team.
“Rob has had a lot of responsibility on his shoulders all season, not only for himself but also the team as a whole, but the acquisition of Jackson Hastings and Joey Lussick has freed him up for him to show once again just what he is capable of doing.”
“It all goes to show that we have a good team, and now that these key players have been brought in, it is showing throughout them all. Our pack has been dominating other sides throughout the season, but at that time we just lacked the link to take the advantage, but we knew that sooner or later the right personnel would become available and we would then be able to turn it all around.”
Tickets are still available to purchase from the The Salford Stadium Ticket Office or over the phone on 0161 786 1570 up until 4pm on Saturday 1st September. Remember, the Club retain 25% of any advanced purchases from the The Salford Stadium. All ticket details can be found HERE.
There is still room on the second Supporters’ Coach available to book at the Club Ticket Office and over the phone on 0161 786 1570. The Club retain 100% of your booking fee. All Coach details can be seen HERE.

Preview | Salford Red Devils vs Widnes Vikings | Saturday 18th August 2018

After earning their first Qualifiers victory at Hull Kingston Rovers last weekend, Salford head into this week’s showdown with Widnes knowing that another win will dramatically enhance the club’s bid to retain its top flight status. 
Last Time Out
Following a memorable triumph over the Leeds Rhinos two weeks prior, Salford produced another impressive display to annihilate Hull Kingston Rovers 10-28 on their own turf.
Debutant Joey Lussick starred in his maiden outing for the Red Devils and claimed a well deserved try in the second period. The hooker’s score combined with further efforts from Niall Evalds, Robert Lui and Josh Wood ensured Ian Watson’s side got off to a flyer in the seven-game competition and earned two crucial points.

As for the visitors, Widnes have endured a miserable campaign. Francis Cummins were unable to boost their relegation fight from their opening Qualifiers tie as Betfred Championship side London Broncos came from behind to pick up a shock 20-21 victory at the Select Security Stadium.
Jarrod Sammut’s late drop-goal condemned the Vikings to their 17th successive defeat and ensured Interim Head Coach Cummins is still searching for his first win in charge, despite arriving at the club two months ago.
The two sides couldn’t have more contrasting fortunes if we’d have tried. The arrivals of Jackson Hastings and Joey Lussick have helped the Red Devils on their way to picking up two emphatic wins in as many games. The pair both scored on their respective debuts and have proved to spearhead Salford’s new look attacking spine alongside Robert Lui and Niall Evalds.
Widnes meanwhile, are in a poor run of form. Cummins’ men are without a win since beating Salford 24-16 back in March. The Vikings have racked up just six points throughout the current Betfred Super League campaign – an abysmal feat for the seven time Challenge Cup winners.
The club had hoped that the recent acquisitions of Wakefield Trinity – and Ireland international half-back – Liam Finn, NRL prop forward Charlie Gubb and former Salford captain Harrison Hansen would help transform the club’s fortunes. But if last week’s defeat to the Broncos is anything to go by, the club’s fan-base is in for an inconsolable end to the season.
This week’s head-to-head sees us compare influential back-rowers Niall Evalds and Olly Ashall-Bott against each other and evaluate their roles within their respective sides.
Despite suffering a broken leg during Salford’s home defeat to Huddersfield back in May, full-back Evalds has made a miraculous recovery to become a prominent figure during the club’s Qualifiers run-in. Evalds made his long awaited return as Salford made the long journey to Perpignan to take on the Catalans Dragons last month and hasn’t looked back since.
The 24-year-old has shone since the arrivals of both Hastings and Lussick and his impact has been hailed as ‘like having a new signing’. Evalds scored a brace as the Red Devils pummelled Leeds Rhinos at the The Salford Stadium two weeks ago, before notching a further effort at Hull KR last weekend.
Ashall-Bott likewise, has impressed heavily in recent weeks. The 20-year-old has made just six appearances this term but has shone during his breakthrough season with Cummins’ first-team.
The full-back come winger has been labelled as the most promising Academy Graduate to emerge out of the Select Security Stadium in recent years and has also spent time on-loan at North Wales Crusaders where the youngster effectively learnt his trade.
Ashall-Bott featured during Widnes’ loss to London and was arguably the side’s finest performer after notching his maiden try for the club.
This battle could well determine which side emerges victorious from the contest, both players are key figures and could heavily influence the outcome with their sheer pace and creative ability.
Team News
Forward Greg Burke – who joined the club on a two-year permanent deal from the Vikings this week – returns to face off with his former club following a short injury layoff. Australian duo Jackson Hastings and Joey Lussick both retain their place in the squad after impressing during the visit to KCOM Craven Park.
Forward Tyrone McCarthy is the only absentee in the Salford squad from last Friday’s win over the Robins. The experienced forward picked up a slight knock.
Widnes will be without new signing Charlie Gubb after the forward sustained a nasty injury during his debut last Thursday versus the Broncos. Olly Ashall-Bott retains his place after a stunning individual display, as do recent arrivals Liam Finn and Harrison Hansen. Veteran forward Chris Houston is also included in the squad and will captain the side.
Salford Red Devils: Kris Welham, Junior Sa’u, Niall Evalds, Rob Lui, Craig Kopczak, Josh Jones, Mark Flanagan, Lama Tasi, Ryan Lannon, Ben Nakubuwai, Josh Wood, Derrell Olpherts, Lee Mossop, Jake Bibby, Daniel Murray, Ed Chamberlain, Greg Burke, Jackson Hastings, Joey Lussick.
Widnes Vikings: Patrick Ah Van, Olly Ashall-Bott, Jay Chapelhow, Danny Craven, Chris Dean, Gil Dudson, Liam Finn, Alex Gerrard, Harrison Hansen,Weller Hauraki, Aaron Heremaia, Chris Houston, Krisnan Inu, MacGraff Leuluai, Joe Mellor, Tom Olbison, Charly Runciman, Lloyd White, Matt Whitley
Table Permutations 
Prior to the launch of the Qualifiers, all points tallies were reset for the competition which has given every side a chance to essentially start the season again.
After triumphing at Hull KR last time out, Salford currently occupy 2nd position in the Qualifiers table. A Salford Red Devils victory could potentially see the Red Devils lead the standings come Saturday evening.
Widnes are 5th in the table, but are essentially joint bottom. If the Vikings were to suffer a second successive defeat at the hands of Salford on Saturday, then pressure will soon begin to mount on Cummins’ men.
Match Officials
Referee: Ben Thaler
Touch Judge: Liam Moore
Touch Judge: Richard Thompson
Video Referee: Robert Hicks

Ian Watson | “We need to show our steel”

The memory of the last time that the Salford Red Devils travelled to Hull KR, in a Qualifiers match, two years ago, must be surely etched in the memory of every one of our fans as it was, of course, in the Million Pound Game.
When the players make their first return visit, in this competition on Friday there will be a number of those players who were involved on that day for whom the memory will be even more stark than our own personal ones as Head Coach Ian Watson readily acknowledges.
Watson said: “Games like that will always be there in the back of your memory, especially with that match having so much meaning to it, and, especially after the game itself having seen the fall out from it with people losing their jobs alongside other consequences. The emotions around all that ensure that those experiences stay with you for the rest of your life.
“So will they for players like Sean Lunt who not only was involved in the actual game but also witnessed and experienced first hand the after effects from the defeat.
“At least on this occasion it is not another Million Pound Game it’s more like a ‘mini-league’ game, which will probably enable everyone to put their thoughts to the back of their minds and as professionals we will approach it as a really serious contest.
“No-one wants to get off to a poor start by losing early games because that could lead directly to involvement in this year’s Million Pound Game but at the moment both sides will all be treating it as nothing more than a really tough match.”
“I always think it’s a good place to go to, though some players find it really intimidating. It is the sort of place that you should want to play in with the extremely loud crowd getting on your back. These things should actually spur you on by you turning them into positive elements.
“You know before you arrive exactly what you are going to get from the spectators on the terraces but out there on the pitch it is just your team against theirs and you should be keen and eager to get out there and challenge yourself.”
It is only a few weeks since the Red Devils last made the trip to KCOM Craven Park and Salford will be looking to avenge a disappointing defeat.
“It was the fact that we failed to show the necessary resilience after their second try from one of our kicks, that ultimately led to our problems, because up to that point we had been playing really well. We need to correct that and show that we have a bit of steel about us and can grind out a win away from home.
“What we learned from that game is that we have to have that attitude and mentality which determines that we will stick to our guns as a team – no matter what. What we don’t want is people doing their own thing to try and fix things up rather than doing so as a team because that just does not work.”
There are a number of former Salford Red Devils colleagues, including former Director of Rugby Tim Sheens, now installed in similar roles at KCOM Craven Park.
“It’s not a bad thing from our point of view because having worked alongside him for twelve months I have got to know the sort of things he will be thinking both ahead of the game and during it but it will be the players who will determine the outcome on the day.
“As coaches we here will be doing our jobs during the week and hopefully we will have prepared the team to go to Hull KR and get the victory.”
Within our ranks for the encounter, will undoubtedly be new recruit, Jackson Hastings, who made such an incredible impact in his Betfred Super League debut against Leeds.
Watson said: “The really pleasing thing is that he has come in and lifted everybody’s spirits with his enthusiasm and confidence. We have also seen that he is a genuine footballer who can read the play and so bring us that control which we have struggled to get all year.
“It would have been great to have been able to get him earlier but now that he is here we are looking forward to seeing what sort of on-field relationships he can strike up with the players around him. He provides leadership, and the forwards are going to listen to someone who is organising things around them, and they will fit into what is needed to be done.
“Rob Lui, on the back of that, stepped up to a different level and I thought he was the best player on the field that night. Hopefully a little bit of the pressure will be taken off him now.
Joey Lussick has also arrived in recent weeks and could be set to debut against Hull Kingston Rovers on Friday evening.
“Jackson and Joey have played together before and we have spent some time working with them and fullback Niall Evalds to help them build a thorough understanding throughout them all.”
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