Preview | Salford Red Devils vs Leeds Rhinos | Friday 27th July

After returning home from last week’s trip to Perpignan, Salford host Leeds Rhinos at the The Salford Stadium tomorrow evening as the Red Devils look to forge some momentum heading into the Qualifiers.  
Last time out
Ian Watson’s men head into this weekend’s showdown after succumbing to a 44-10 defeat at the hands of the Catalans Dragons last Saturday, though Salford did battle well at times in the second period.
Derrell Olpherts and Josh Wood both crossed over in what were two well taken efforts, but the Dragons proved too hot to handle as Fouad Yaha struck four times to seal a fine eight try victory for the hosts.
Wood’s try in particular, was a positive note for Salford. The half-back has been one of the side’s most improved players throughout the campaign and deservedly touched down for his first score of the season at the Stade Gilbert Brutus.
As for Leeds, new management team Kevin Sinfield and James Lowes saw their side triumph for the first time last Friday as the Rhinos comfortably dispatched Widnes Vikings 34-0.
Tries from Brad Dwyer, Luke Briscoe, Richie Myler, Matt Parcell, Joel Moon, Tom Briscoe and Jack Walker saw the hosts pummel the struggling Vikings.
Form 
Both sides haven’t quite matched their successes from 2017 this time around. After seven successive losses, the Rhinos parted company with long-serving coach Brian McDermott earlier this month following a 46-8 humiliation at Wigan.
Club legend Sinfield arrived as the club’s new Director of Rugby – alongside former Great Britain hooker Lowe who has been appointed as First-Team Coach – but Leeds’ form didn’t immediately improve. A 42-10 defeat at Castleford was followed by a frustrating 20-all draw with Wakefield at the Emerald Headingley Stadium.
Last time out sparked a revival as the side bounced back to winning ways in emphatic fashion with a clinical 6 try demolition over Francis Cummins’ Vikings.
2017 was a year to remember for Salford, the club achieved its finest regular season finish in almost 40 years, accompanied by a spot in the semi-finals of the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup. This year though, the objective is far more straightforward – to preserve the club’s Super League status.
The transition to a community-based club has proved challenging throughout the year, but with the recent eye-catching acquisition of half-back Jackson Hastings, Watson’s side will be confident of ending a four-game losing streak tomorrow evening.
Head-to-Head
In this week’s head-to-head we compare highly-rated half-backs Jackson Hastings and Richie Myler against each other, as we highlight the pair’s potential impact on tomorrow’s clash.
Hastings – who signed for the Red Devils two weeks ago on a deal initially until the end of the season – was one of the most exciting talents in Australia’s NRL prior to his release from Manly Sea Eagles and will be hopeful of carrying this form into the final stages of the season, starting with his potential debut tomorrow night.
The 22-year-old is renowned for his ability to unpick an opposition line and is a dependable try scorer and playmaker. If Hastings plays anything like his best during the showdown between the two sides, the Rhinos’ defence will be in for a long night.

Similarly to Hastings, former Red Devil Myler is also a capable playmaker. The 28-year-old boasts almost 10 years Super League experience and is a proven England international, Myler leads the Super League chart for top try assists and acts as the team’s main threat alongside top try-scorer Ash Handley. Salford’s defence will have to be at their best if Myler is to have a quiet evening at the AJ Bell.
Team News
Recent arrival Hastings is included in Ian Watson’s 19-man-squad for the first time and is line to make his debut for the club, the 22-year-old replaces fellow half-back Jake Shorrocks. Craig Kopczak misses out through injury and is replaced by Gavin Bennion – who has returned from a loan spell at Betfred Championship side Rochdale Hornets.
https://twitter.com/SalfordDevils/status/1022076190088212481
Leeds meanwhile, have initially named an 18-man squad due to an ongoing injury crisis. Despite the shortage in numbers, Jamie Jones-Buchanan has returned to the squad following a knee operation whilst Nathaniel Peteru also returns to the squad.
Squads
Salford: Junior Sa’u, Niall Evalds, Robert Lui, Josh Jones, Mark Flanagan, Lama Tasi, Ryan Lannon, Tyrone McCarthy, Ben Nakubuwai, Josh Wood, Derrell Olpherts, Lee Mossop, Jake Bibby, Levy Nzoungou, Daniel Murray, Gavin Bennion, Ed Chamberlain, Greg Burke, Jackson Hastings.
Leeds: Ashton Golding, Tom Briscoe, Liam Sutcliffe, Joel Moon, Richie Myler, Matt Parcell, Brad Singleton, Jamie-Jones-Buchanan, Carl Ablett, Brad Dwyer, Mitch Garbutt, Jimmy Keinhorst, Nathaniel Peteru, Ash Handley, Cameron Smith, Josh Walters, Luke Briscoe, Dom Crosby.
Table Permutations  
Just six points separate the sides in the Betfred Super League table. Leeds currently occupy 9th position, whilst Salford lie 11th. A Salford Red Devils victory would move the side to within a point of 10th place Hull Kingston Rovers – providing they lose at local rivals Hull FC tomorrow evening – and four points adrift of the Rhinos.
A win for Leeds meanwhile would move reduce the gap between them and Huddersfield to a solitary point, providing the Giants fall to defeat when they welcome Wakefield Trinity to the John Smith’s Stadium tomorrow.

Preview | Catalans Dragons vs Salford Red Devils | Saturday 21st July

The Red Devils travel to Perpignan to take on Catalans Dragons at the Stade Gilbert Brutus this coming Saturday, and Ian Watson’s side will be looking to build on their encouraging display during last week’s loss to Castleford Tigers. 
Last time out
Salford head into this weekend’s showdown after producing a creditable display last Friday at the The Salford Stadium.
Despite falling to a 6-24 defeat, Watson’s troops more than matched last year’s League Leaders Shield winners and found themselves on level terms at the interval – though Castleford did take the lead through Jake Webster on 18 minutes.
After persistently piling the pressure amongst the Tigers’ defensive line, Salford’s efforts were rewarded five minutes prior to the break when Jake Bibby latched onto Ed Chamberlain’s low kick to touch down in the corner.
https://twitter.com/SalfordDevils/status/1017856387274231814
However, the second half didn’t quite live up to expectations and the visitors crossed for three second half efforts as Webster grabbed his second, before Michael Shenton and Kieran Gill also crossed to snatch victory, following an error-ridden affair.
Catalans meanwhile, head into the tie on the back of a thrilling 22-22 draw with Warrington last time out. Despite taking the lead through Benjamin Jullien, the Dragons soon found themselves up against it as the hosts scored three quick-fire tries through Bryson Goodwin, Josh Charnley and Harvey Livett.
However, the French side regrouped and immediately clawed their way back into the contest as Michael McIlorum surged over the whitewash, before Tony Gigot crossed three minutes prior to the break to the level the scores.
Josh Drinkwater – who has been in breathtaking form since signing for Catalans in April – kicked five goals, but neither side was unable to claim a late victory.
Form 
Both sides made slow starts to 2018, Steve McNamara’s Dragons had won just once prior to the Good Friday meeting with Salford at the AJ Bell, whilst the Red Devils had achieved marginally better with two victories.
On that March afternoon, it was Watson’s side who’d triumph as tries from Jake Bibby, Niall Evalds, Greg Johnson, Josh Jones and Kris Welham along with six goals from Robert Lui ensured The Red Devils secured a comfortable win.
That fixture appeared to spark a French revolution. Since then, Catalans have played an intriguing brand of Rugby and have managed to conjure up 8 wins from 14 games and reach the semi-finals of the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup.
During their recent run, the Dragons overturned Salford 26-12 at the Magic Weekend, as former red Jodie Broughton crossed for a hat-trick.
Salford have swept aside Huddersfield Giants, Wakefield Trinity and Widnes Vikings in the same period but have suffered frequent injury blows. The Red Devils will be hopeful of producing another battling performance this time out, after nullifying Castleford’s attacking power for much of last week’s tie.
Head-to-Head
In this week’s head-to-head we pit versatile backs Ed Chamberlain and David Mead against each other, as we highlight the pair’s influences within their respective sides.
Chamberlain – who joined the Red Devils permanently on Wednesday – has certainly caught the eye since arriving initially on-loan from Widnes last month. Naturally a centre, the 22-year-old is also capable of filling the void on either wing or at full-back, with the latter being his primary position for Salford thus far.
Ed has made three appearances for the club during his loan spell and particularly impressed in recent defeats to Hull Kingston Rovers and Castleford.
It was during his home debut versus the Tigers where the youngster truly shone though, the former Widnes man produced a classy display throughout and provided a delicate kick to assist Jake Bibby’s first-half effort.
https://twitter.com/SalfordDevils/status/1018078694047453184
David Mead is one of the most influential players in the world scene of Rugby League, the Papua New Guinea captain shone for his country at the 2017 RLWC ‘down under’ and has carried this form into his spell with the Dragons.
The 29-year-old is the Dragons’ top scorer with 8 tries and possesses a similar versatility to Chamberlain, which makes him a formidable threat. Mead is more than handy at full-back, wing or centre – with Catalans boss McNamara opting to play him in the former for much of the campaign.
Team News
Jackson Hastings – who joined the Red Devils this week – misses out on the 19-man squad and will not arrive in the UK until next week, injured duo Greg Johnson and Logan Tomkins remain sidelined for the trip to Perpignan.
On a positive note, Full-back Niall Evalds returns to the squad following a nine-week spell on the sidelines after breaking a bone in his leg during April’s victory over Wakefield Trinity.
24-year-old Evalds replaces Luke Burgess in the squad who is still suffering from a recurring knee injury. Prop Craig Kopczak is named in the squad but is unlikely to feature as the forward hasn’t fully recovered from a quadricep injury.
French forward Levy Nzoungou made his second appearance – and his home debut – last Friday against Castleford Tigers and will be looking to make it back-to-back appearances this weekend as he returns to his homeland.
As for the visitors, former Red Devil Jodie Broughton has been given the go-ahead to feature and will be looking to haunt Salford once more, after grabbing a sublime hat-trick as Catalans triumphed over Salford in May’s Magic Weekend. The winger replaces Mickael Goudemand in what is the sole change to the French side’s squad from last week’s battle with Warrington.
Squads
Catalans: David Mead, Jodie Broughton, Brayden Williame, Fouad Yaha, Samisoni Langi, Rémi Casty, Sam Moa, Louis Anderson, Benjamin Garcia, Greg Bird, Julian Bousquet, Mickael Simon, Jason Baitieri, Michael McIlorum, Lewis Tierney, Benjamin Jullien, Tony Gigot, Josh Drinkwater, Kenny Edwards.
Salford: Junior Sa’u, Niall Evalds, Rob Lui, Craig Kopczak, Josh Jones, Mark Flanagan, Lama Tasi, Ryan Lannon, Tyrone McCarthy, Ben Nakubuwai, Josh Wood, Derrell Olpherts, Lee Mossop, Jake Bibby, Levy Nzoungou, Daniel Murray, Jake Shorrocks, Ed Chamberlain, Greg Burke.
Table Permutations  
Salford have the opportunity to move to within a point of Hull Kingston Rovers in the Betfred Super League table, providing the Robins fail to secure any points when they host Warrington Wolves at KCOM Craven Park this evening.
A Catalans victory would see the Dragons move above Wakefield into 6th place, at least until Trinity entertain Hull FC on Sunday afternoon.
Ready for the Rhinos!
Purchase your tickets for our game with Leeds on Friday 27th July from the Club Ticket Office, on 0161 786 1570 or by simply clicking HERE.

Ben Nakubuwai | “We need to be resilient”

Ahead of tonight’s Betfred Super League clash with Castleford Tigers, we caught up with Ben Nakubuwai who feels the Red Devils forwards need to get on top in the early stages. 
Nakubuwai, sponsored by Sparta Lightning Services, said: “It’s going to be really important for us to stamp our mark on the game and show them that we’re here to play and that starts with us forwards.
“If you look at last weekend’s game against Hull KR we were all over them in the first twenty minutes. We just need to keep consistent and do what works well for us and that’s when our middles keep going forward.
“If we can do that and limit our errors we’re a side to be reckoned with.”
Despite defeat last weekend against Hull Kingston Rovers, Nakubuwai maintains that there is still a lot of confidence in the camp and knows the importance of building momentum heading into the 8s.
“It’s really important for us to start stringing some good performances together so when we head into the back end of the year, so we can stay away from trouble.
“I just think we need a bit more composure when calls go against us or we make mistakes. We need to be resilient, not allow our heads to drop and keep the same attitude throughout the whole eighty minutes.
“Everyone will be focused on their jobs and aiming to put in the best performance they possibly can.
“There’s still a lot of confidence in the camp, we’re staying positive and focused on the job at hand.”
Nakubuwai has become a regular feature in the first team since arriving from Gold Coast Titans and is loving life at the The Salford Stadium.
“It’s going to be good to play our first game at home for nearly a month. It’s always good to play in a familiar environment and the fans are always terrific at the The Salford Stadium.
“It’s my first year in the Betfred Super League and I’m really enjoying the experience so far. I feel like my game has improved and I feel like every week I’m learning new things that are furthering me as a rugby league player.”
The Tigers are in Town, but we’ll roar louder!
Tickets are still available from the Club Ticket Office and over the phone on 0161 786 1570 for this evening’s game.

Preview | Salford Red Devils vs Castleford Tigers | Friday 13th July

The Red Devils host Castleford Tigers at the The Salford Stadium this coming Friday as Ian Watson’s men look to return to winning ways following last week’s disappointing defeat at Hull Kingston Rovers.
Last time out
Salford dominated the early stages at KCOM Craven Park and raced into a 6-0 lead as Greg Johnson bulldozed his way over the whitewash. Ed Chamberlain marked his first start for the club with three goals, but Johnson’s effort proved to be the visitors’ sole score in the first period.
After the break, Junior Sa’u managed to claim two well worked tries before Jake Bibby crossed in the dying minutes of the contest.
https://twitter.com/SalfordDevils/status/1015982441419476992
Unfortunately for Salford though, the hosts proved too hot to handle. Danny McGuire claimed a sublime hat-trick, Will Oakes crossed for a double, whilst Ryan Shaw, Adam Quinlan, James Greenwood and Joel Tomkins also touched down to condemn the Devils to defeat.
Castleford meanwhile, head into the showdown in fine form after pummelling Leeds Rhinos at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle in their last fixture. Highly-rated youngster Jake Trueman scored twice whilst Jesse Sene-Lefao also crossed for a brace of his own.
Leeds – who were under the stewardship of new management team Kevin Sinfield and James Lowes for the very first time – did manage to conjure up 10 points thanks to Tom Briscoe’s double and a goal from Liam Sutcliffe but Cas proved too superior.
Daryl Powell’s side were in a ruthless mood and found themselves over on three further occasions as the recently injured Greg Eden, Quentin Laulu-Togaga’e and Matt Cook all touched down. Leeds did lose captain Stevie Ward to injury early in the second half, but by then, the damage has already been done.
Form 
Salford have endured mixed fortunes in recent weeks, first the Red Devils returned to winning ways in emphatic fashion after triumphing 26-12 over Widnes Vikings to earn a crucial victory at the The Salford Stadium.
Two weeks later, Watson’s side travelled to nearby Warrington and competed with the Wolves for the majority of the fixture. Jack Littlejohn had arguably his best performance in a Salford shirt, after crossing for two tries, but the Australian’s night would end in disaster after rupturing his bicep.
Jake Bibby finished off a stunning team move by diving over in front of the travelling Salford faithful, but Warrington struck five times in the final 30 minutes to put the game to bed. Salford then conceded 9 tries at Hull KR just over a week later.
Castleford on the other hand, have lost just two of their last eight fixtures. The Tigers ran riot over Leeds at the Magic Weekend, secured further victories over Hull KR, Warrington, Wigan Warriors, before sentencing the Rhinos to another defeat last weekend.
The Tigers are an unpredictable side though, Powell’s men have been heavily beaten by both St Helens and the Catalans Dragons over the last two months, with each racking up 40 points or more against last year’s League Leaders Shield winners. Cas also drew 24-all with Hull KR four weeks ago and will be wary of the various threats Salford could potentially impose on Friday Evening.
Head-to-Head
In this week’s head-to-head we pit forwards Mark Flanagan and Grant Millington against each other as we take a closer look into the pair’s impact within their respective sides.
Flanagan – who joined the Red Devils in 2016 from St Helens – has heavily impressed during his time at the The Salford Stadium. Despite missing the majority of the Super 8s last season through a shoulder injury, ‘Flash’ is a highly influential player within the squad and his ball-playing style sees him act as a third half-back in the majority of the Red Devils’ plays.
The 30-year-old is a creative player who brings a level of class and experience to the team’s attack and defence, which has seen him emerge as a consistent performer for yet another season.
https://twitter.com/SalfordDevils/status/980033095482175488
Millington joined the Tigers from the Canterbury Bulldogs in 2012, the 31-year-old is of a similar mould to Flanagan and despite not always featuring at loose-forward, the Aussie is always involved in his side’s plays.
Both Flanagan and Millington are highly experienced veterans and whichever side comes out on top on Friday evening, it is almost a certainty that one of the duo will have been heavily involved throughout.
Team News
Greg Johnson – who opened the scoring for Salford during last week’s defeat to the Robins – misses out on this week’s squad after being leaving the field prematurely last time out. Hooker Logan Tomkins also leaves the 19-man squad after picking up an injury in the same clash.
The duo are replaced by Luke Burgess – who has been out of action since the 30-0 defeat to Wigan in early May – and Craig Kopczak.
As for the visitors, Jamie Ellis is replaced in the Tigers’ 19-man squad and is replaced by promising back-rower Kieran Gill. Gill, 22, has spent time on-loan at League One side Oldham in recent times and impressed enough to earn a recall. In other news, Joe Wardle returns to the fold at the expense of Nathan Massey.
Squads
Salford: Junior Sa’u, Robert Lui, Craig Kopczak, Josh Jones, Mark Flanagan, Lama Tasi, Ryan Lannon, Luke Burgess, Tyrone McCarthy, Ben Nakubuwai, Josh Wood, Derrell Olpherts, Lee Mossop, Jake Bibby, Levy Nzoungou, Daniel Murray, Jake Shorrocks, Ed Chamberlain, Greg Burke.
Castleford: James Clare, Mitch Clark, Matt Cook, Greg Eden, Tuoyo Egodo, Kieran Gill, Oliver Holmes, Quentin Laulu-Togaga’e, Paul McShane, Grant Millington, Adam Milner, Junior Moors, Jesse Sene-Lefao, Michael Shenton, Gadwin Springer, Jake Trueman, Liam Watts, Joe Wardle, Jake Webster.
Table Permutations  
A Salford Red Devils victory could see them climb a place to 10th in the Betfred Super League table, providing Hull KR fail to secure any points at Widnes. 9th place Leeds entertain local rivals Wakefield Trinity at the Emerald Headingley Stadium – and alongside a Red Devils win – a Trinity victory could see Salford move to within a point of the Rhinos.
Castleford currently occupy third spot in the table, three points adrift of Wigan. However, a win for Powell’s side could see them reduce the gap between the sides to a single point, if the Warriors lose at Huddersfield.

Martin Gleeson | “I believe we can come up with the win”

With the England v New Zealand Test Match, in Denver, having provided what must have been a most welcome blank weekend for the rest of Super League, the Salford Red Devils return to action on Friday evening, suitably rested, as they make the short trip to neighbours, Warrington Wolves.
The benefits of the extended break are detailed to us by assistant coach, Martin Gleeson.
“It’s a good chance to give the bodies a rest and a few days off, while at the same time having an extra couple of training days, when the players have come back fresh. In those we can brush up on a few things and then work more specifically on certain aspects of our game that really need it.
“Everyone of the players is fully aware of what they should be doing in every game, but the main things we need to improve upon are our discipline and ball retention. That is what has been costing us in so many matches, because you cannot produce a quality performance when you are giving away a lot of penalties and dropping the ball.
“Thankfully, we went some way towards putting that right, last time out, against Widnes, when we all saw just how competitive we can be when we get those elements right.”
Having seemingly turned the corner with their second half performance at Hull, and having backed that up with a home victory against the Vikings, attention now turns to this coming weekend’s fixture with Warrington.
“If we don’t put ourselves under too much unnecessary pressure we are capable of beating them. They have some high quality, individuals, and that will make it tough, but if we can produce the same kind of performance we did against Widnes, I believe we can come up with the win.
“On the other hand, if we fail to measure up in this respect, that is when the likes of Benny Murdoch-Masila, Chris Hill, and Josh Charnley will get opportunities to make us pay. They are all quick, and if they are running at a tired defence which has been doing more defending than attacking, those quality players are going to cause us problems.
“We have to play well to compete with them, and if we don’t we are not going to win.”
Stark as that warning, is, it comes in the context of a mere handful of games left in the regular season.
“Every point we can get now is crucial, and we could do with getting every one available to us, but even if we don’t get those points we have still got to stay in games and be competitive to the end, so that whichever competition we move onto next, we are in a good run of form.
“So, even on occasions when we don’t get the result we have got to come up with a good performance, in order to generate that momentum for the next stage of the season.”
Looking at the fixture list on paper, this week’s encounter would appear to be the toughest of them all, particularly with it being an away fixture against one of the leading sides in this year’s competition.
“We would certainly be expecting our home matches to produce good results, and having beaten Castleford here last year is some encouragement in this, but they are all going to be tough in the run in.”
The recent strengthening of the squad, with the acquisition of prop, Greg Burke, and utility back, Ed Chamberlain, will undoubtedly go some way towards helping matters.
“Greg is a Wiganer who has come from a good rugby background, and experienced a highly competitive team environment, so with Lee Mossop and Mark Flanagan missing last time out, he was perfect to come in and shoulder some responsibility, which he did really well. It’s good to have him on board.
“The try he scored was quite pivotal in the outcome, and it came from our pressure, as a result of getting back-to-back sets.
“Ed will bring some much-needed competition for places, in the backs.”
 

The Tigers are in Town, but we’ll roar louder! 
Tickets for our next home game against Castleford Tigers on Friday 13th July are available to purchase at the Club Ticket Office, over the phone or online here.

Preview | Hull FC vs Salford Red Devils | Friday 8th June

Salford Red Devils travel to Hull FC in search of two crucial points in the hunt for a spot inside the Super 8s.
Here is our preview of the fixture including both teams recent form, team news, full squads and a head-to-head between two players who could be pivotal in the outcome of the game.
Last Time Out
The Red Devils suffered defeat at the hands of Huddersfield Giants in their last outing but did go into the break in the lead thanks to tries from Niall Evalds and Junior Sa’u. The centre did power over for a second late on, but Huddersfield’s comeback had already been complete with scores from Darnell McIntosh, Daniel Smith, Jordan Turner and Kruise Leeming.
Hull FC’s two-year unbeaten run in the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup came to an end last weekend as they suffered a 25-22 defeat at the hands of current Betfred Super League leaders St Helens at the Totally Wicked Stadium.
Albert Kelly, James Green, Scott Taylor and Hakim Miloudi all crossed for Hull FC however doubles from Mark Percival and Regan Grace alongside a terrific kicking display from Danny Richardson, which included a drop-goal, sealed victory for the Saints.
Form
Salford will be looking to get back to winning ways this weekend against Hull FC after a difficult spell in May. The Red Devils came close to turning their fortunes around last weekend against Huddersfield and a victory on Friday evening could see them climb back into the top eight.
FC have had a mixed bag of results lately with the defeat against St Helens following a 30-12 loss to Warrington Wolves at the backend of May. However, prior to this the Black and Whites had won consecutive games against Featherstone Rovers in the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup and local rivals Hull Kingston Rovers at the Dacia Magic Weekend.
Team News
Ian Watson welcomes back Josh Jones into the squad who has been out since the Red Devils last away victory against Huddersfield Giants. Kris Welham has also recovered from an injury he sustained at the Dacia Magic Weekend.
Jack Littlejohn also returns to the squad to face the side he scored his first-ever Red Devils try against. Lama Tasi is also reintroduced into the squad while Ryan Lannon and Gavin Bennion are the two changes from last week’s squad.
Niall Evalds is sidelined with a broken leg which he picked up against Huddersfield a fortnight ago while Kriss Brining also remains out due to injury.
Lee Radford’s Hull FC have been struggling with injuries and have a number of first team regulars missing including Sika Manu, Danny Houghton and Dean Hadley.
Long-term absentees Marc Sneyd, Josh Bowden, Josh Griffin, Fetuli Talanoa and Jordan Abdull are all also unavailable.
Head-to-Head
With Josh Jones looking set to return for the Red Devils the second-rower features in this week’s head-to-head against Hull FC back-rower Mark Minichiello.
Jones has a powerful running game out wide for the Red Devils and is always a threat on the opponent’s line. The former St Helens man still sits second in terms of offloads for the team this season despite being sidelined for two months and his hands could very well create some openings for Salford on Friday evening.
Minichiello is a workhorse for the Black and Whites sitting fourth in FC’s tackle count so far this season. The Italian international – much like Jones – has terrific hands and sits second in the Hull’s offloading ranks thus far in 2018.
While both forwards defensive efforts will be massive for their respective sides the game could come down to one pivotal offload or play from the back-rowers to edge their team in front.
Squads:
Hull FC: Shaul, Faraimo, Tuimavave, Kelly, Taylor, Minichiello, Connor, Green, Washbrook, Fash, Paea, Logan, Lane, Downs, Miloudi, Matongo, Scott, Westerman, Harris.
Salford: Johnson, Welham, Sa’u, Lui, Littlejohn, Kopczak, Tomkins, G. Griffin, Jones, Flanagan, Tasi, McCarthy, Nakubuwai, Wood, Olpherts, Mossop, Bibby, Murray, Shorrocks.

Ian Watson | “We need to improve and look forward”

That four week run of high profile matches, which commenced with the televised game against St Helens, culminates this Sunday with arguably the highest profile of all, with our visit up to Newcastle for the Magic Weekend. 
The importance of both the occasion, and the encounter there with Catalans Dragons is very much to the forefront of Head Coach Ian Watson’s focus.
Watson said: “It’s a really big showpiece, with the feel of both the Grand Final and Challenge Cup Final with all the Super League teams being involved, it generates a similar profile to each of those, not only for rugby league as a whole, but also for the individual players.”
Indeed, over and above both of these other two events, this is the one occasion each year when every club, every player, and every fan has the opportunity of being involved, or watching their own team participating, in a big occasion, whilst Ian adds a coach’s perspective to the concept.
“It’s also an opportunity to see the majority of all the other Super League players in action.  It has also become a bit of a feeding ground for the NRL clubs, who send their agents and CEO’s over to assess the talent on display. It’s a great spectacle too for the supporters.
“Nevertheless, there is the seriousness of two league points being at stake, which has been our focus for the week.”
As supporters we might have expected that the coaching staff would have been endeavouring to get the specialness of the occasion into the preparations for the team but Ian belies this assumption.
Watson said: “The main thing for us is to take the emotion out of it all, and putting the showpiece element aside, in order to focus on the game, particularly after last week’s disappointment at Leigh.
“One penalty on the fifth tackle followed by a try under the posts swung the game away from us after we had seemed to be on fire, moments earlier.  If you give teams opportunities by failing to complete your sets it is an absolute killer and we were embarrassed by our second half completion rate.
“That, along with decision-making, has been a big aspect of our preparations, this week, because we need to improve on these and look forward positively.
“We had a great training session today [Thursday], with good ball skills, lines run, execution of plays, and decision making on the edges.”
It will be remembered that Sunday’s opponents, Catalans, were the team against whom we played at home last season just a few days after the Manchester Arena bombing, on which occasion donations, in lieu of admission fee, went to the resultant We Love Manchester Emergency Fund.
One year on, on the self-same weekend of the bombing, the Red Devils will be sporting the shirt, dedicated to the memory of the victims and voted – by an extremely large majority – the most impressive of all Magic Weekend shirts on display this year by fans via the Super League Twitter page.
“When you line all that up, it does bring that tragedy into focus and, of course, having that particular shirt, in support of such a noteworthy charity is magnificent especially with it being almost to the day on which it all happened.  We, ourselves, though, must remain clear in our vision of getting winning points on the day.”
That those tragic events came so close to last year’s Magic Weekend certainly will not be lost on Salford fans, many of whom might well have caught the train up to Newcastle, the day before, from a platform on Victoria Station, in very close proximity to where the blast was to be detonated.
“Because it happened so close to home it feels much more real, and so there is a lot more sentiment around it.  We shall be continuing this on Friday next, at the Huddersfield game, when we shall entertain guests affected by the bombing.
“In our own way, through all of this, the club is simply paying its respects to all the victims.”
With Catalans being the one team whom, this year, we shall be playing three times, it would seem imperative, therefore, that we should win at least a majority of these, which means that Sunday’s fixture becomes crucial in this respect, though it comes just as the Dragons are showing signs of improvement.
“They had been playing well ahead of our Good Friday match with them, but for us now, over the next few weeks it’s all about getting the wins, starting with this one, and we are confident that we have the quality within the squad to be able to do this.”

Martin Gleeson | “We just have to go out and do the job”

Firmly on the back of a successful visit to Yorkshire, the two points from which pushed the Red Devils into the top eight for the first time this season, attention turns now to the task of remaining there and by building upon that win making further progress up the table.
With the visit of Wakefield on Friday evening, comes the first chance of so doing, as the Yorkshiremen, fresh from their remarkable victory over St Helens, look themselves to consolidate their league position immediately above us.
The importance of this game, therefore, is quite considerable, but then, so too, was the Huddersfield game, this time last week – a fact certainly not wasted on Assistant Coach, Martin Gleeson.
Gleeson said: “That was definitely one we needed, because it keeps us in touch with the others up there, and the lads worked really hard for it.  We did what we set out to do, which was putting a lot of pressure on the opposition and being disciplined in the early stages, which puts you in a good position for the rest of the game.
“The difficulty comes when you drift away from that, and then the tables are reversed, and you end up putting yourself under pressure from them.  When we are disciplined we can play really well as we showed in the early and later stages of the game.”
The requirement for them, therefore, is to ensure on Friday that they sustain their disciplined approach throughout the game, which will more than assist them in their task.
“Wakefield are a really good side, especially with the ball, as they have smart half backs, and fast three-quarters, but we have given them a good game already this season.  We have been practising a game plan today which we think will combat them, so if we stick to what we have planned we will be able to cause them some problems.”
Memories of our early season visit seem to have lingered through the club, throughout the intervening months, as a game we really could have won, and the opportunity to square things up will be most welcome to us all.
“We didn’t start very well, that evening, and we ended up chasing the game, mainly because we weren’t patient enough, trying to score tries from the kick off, which led to us making errors, and we just looked a bit over-eager, while our execution was a bit rusty.  I believe that going into this game, though, we can get a result.”
The decision to present Ben Nakubuwai with another starting role with us, last Sunday, certainly paid dividends as he repaid the faith in him by backing up Mark Flanagan’s break to score Salford’s second try.
“We analyse people’s performances week in week out, while also assessing the nature of the anticipated game, to determine just how the players should be used to best fit the requirements of each game.
“Ben had certainly made progress over the weeks, and he is quick and has good footwork for a big man playing in the middles, which is where we are wanting him to play.  He took his opportunity really well.
As things turned out, the match developed into a fairly rough encounter, the consequence of which was that a few injuries came along to complicate things this week.
“We picked up a handful of injuries some of which could limit chances of selection.  It’s the result of the Easter period, and at the moment we still don’t know what the team is likely to be.”
Foresight has determined, however, that the squad now comprises of players of relatively similar quality, primarily so that the change of personnel should not be an overly massive issue, these days.
“That is especially true of the forwards, where we do have a bit of depth, so we will have players to step in and take over.  We just have to go out and do the job.”

Preview | Huddersfield Giants vs Salford Red Devils | Sunday 15th April

Salford Red Devils travel to Huddersfield today with the aim of getting back to winning ways and here is everything you need to know ahead of the tie.
Last Time Out
Salford fell to defeat against Warrington in their last outing however the scoreline flattered the Wolves. A slow start saw Steve Price’s men take control with tries from Toby King and Josh Charnley. The Red Devils did cross through Rob Lui but in the end left themselves with too much to do.
It was a similar story for Huddersfield who conceded five tries in the first half last weekend against Castleford. The Giants began a fightback through tries from Daniel Smith and an Innes Senior double but in the end, Castleford were just too strong.
Form
Salford head into the today’s game with two wins from their last five outings. Two impressive home victories against Hull FC and Catalans were either side of a disappointing loss against Widnes which saw the Vikings score two late tries.
Defeat to Leeds on Easter Monday was followed by a spirited performance against Warrington which saw the visitors runaway with a scoreline which didn’t reflect the game on the field. The Red Devils will be looking to get back to winning ways against a side they overcame at the John Smith’s Stadium last season.
Huddersfield head into this afternoon’s game without a win in any of their last five Betfred Super League outings. The Giants’ last victory came on Friday 9th March in a 16-28 win over Widnes Vikings.
Since then the Giants suffered heavy defeats to Hull Kingston Rovers, Wigan Warriors and Catalans Dragons. A solitary point is all Huddersfield have earned from this run of fixtures thanks to a 22-22 draw with Leeds Rhinos on Good Friday. Huddersfield improved last week against Castleford but still couldn’t get back to winning ways.
Previous Meetings
Salford have an impressive record against Huddersfield in recent years winning five of the last six meetings between the sides and four consecutive fixtures against the Giants.
The most recent meeting saw the Red Devils hammer the Giants 52-14 in last year’s Super 8s which followed a 36-20 win at the The Salford Stadium and a 30-20 victory at Huddersfield in the 2017 Betfred Super League.
The Red Devils have also enjoyed playing at the John Smith’s Stadium over the years winning on each of their last four visits. However, these have always been close affairs with their last three victories at Huddersfield all coming by ten points or less. Huddersfield’s last win over Salford came in 2016 thanks to a Danny Brough drop-goal at the The Salford Stadium
Head-to-Head
There is only one head-to-head to look at ahead of today’s game against Huddersfield and that is the one between both playmakers Rob Lui and Danny Brough.
Lui had to move to full-back last weekend due to Niall Evalds being sidelined but expect the Australian half to move back into his more natural role and look to unlock the Giants defence.
Huddersfield’s key man is Brough who has been central to any success at the John Smith’s Stadium over the last few years. Brough’s kicking game is always a threat whether it be from inside his own half or on the opposition line.
Squads
Huddersfield: Turner, Murphy, Gaskell, Brough, Ikahihifo, Leeming, Wakeman, Hinchcliffe, Rankin, Roberts, Ta’ai, Clough, Smith, Walne, Mellor, McIntosh, English, Simpson, Senior.
Salford: Johnson, Welham, Sa’u, Evalds, Lui, Littlejohn, Kopczak, Tomkins, Griffin, Jones, Hauraki, Flanagan, Tasi, Lannon, Nakubuwai, Wood, Olpherts, Mossop, Bibby.

Ian Watson | “The Easter period is a very busy time for us”

In the run up to the much-debated dual fixture Bank Holiday weekend, one could not have asked for anything better than an extra day of preparation prior to this, and with last week’s televised outing at Widnes being on the Thursday evening, that is just what the Salford players and coaches have had.
It is not just having an additional day for recovery, though, it is the use to which the time is put, and Head Coach, Ian Watson, has been keen to get the greatest benefit he can from the whole period of preparation.
“The Easter period is a very busy time for us, but with the Catalans match being the first of them, and it also being at home, that is where we have placed our focus.”
“We have had two really good days’ training at the start of the week, and will finish our preparations on Thursday, with Captain’s Run.”
It is by this time of the season that the wear and tear on the players’ bodies starts to show its effects, so there will be a number of them who will be thankful for the extra day’s respite.
“We picked up quite a few knocks and bangs in our last match, which is far from helpful but the players are beginning to roll back in now, so there might be only slight changes from last week’s game, for the Catalans fixture.”
With Easter Monday’s visit to Leeds coming up hard and fast behind, however, the possible return of any missing players for that match would add a freshness to the squad for that outing.
“The recovery of players is an essential part of our work over this coming period.
“At least this year, we are not having to face a trek down to the south of France, which we had to make last year.”
Somewhat surprisingly, the Dragons have found victories few and far between this season, and it is when teams are in this position that they can potentially be at their most dangerous.
“They have a pretty big squad with quality players, and in fact they are playing well in games.
“Against Hull last week, for example, their forwards absolutely dominated the Hull pack for large periods of the game, so they are a team to be wary of without any doubt.”
After savouring the atmosphere of a local derby for the equivalent fixture against Leigh last year, this season’s Good Friday home game will need Salford fans to turn up in numbers to generate the atmosphere to spur on the players to victory.
“Our players will really need the strong vocal support from our fans for this one because unlike the event our one trip to France each season has become, for the Catalans fans it is every other week, so they don’t bring many with them.”
A trip to the Emerald Headingley Stadium is always a daunting encounter, with only three post-war victories to our record, and coming so quickly on the tails of the first game, will be a real tester for the squad.
“I never went there and won as a player myself.
“Everyone in the top leagues of any sport want to make their home ground a fortress that no-one can come to with much hope of winning, and Leeds have clearly managed to do that, especially against us.
“But it’s a record which is there for us to break, and something to look forward to with excitement rather than anxiety.  We have been in some pretty good tussles with them in recent years, so we shall just have to try to get into a contest with them.”
In order to do that, however, it is not going to be sufficient to rely merely upon players returning from injury to add the required freshness to the team, it will require some planned rotation of the squad.
“We did that to good effect for our away fixture at Warrington in the Spring Bank Holiday double header last year, and came away with a win at a ground we don’t always get a result at.
“We are, though, a new team, and combinations are still developing so we shall have to balance those two aspects against each another, because at Widnes we did not execute our plays in the early stages of the first half as well as Widnes did at the end of the second half.
“Against the two Hull sides, however, we really earned the right to be in a position to do that to really good effect against both those teams.”

Sign up to the official newsletter