Round one of the Betfred Super League season comes to a close on Sunday afternoon, as the only fixture of the day sees Widnes Vikings host Catalans Dragons at the Select Security Stadium.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
Head coach Denis Betts opted to schedule just two pre-season fixtures for Widnes Vikings, insisting he was happy with the intensity of training. It also meant he avoided picking up any injuries, as they did in 2017. The annual festive derby at home to Warrington Wolves saw a young Vikings outfit pick up a 26-22 victory, before a stronger line-up comfortably defeated Whitehaven 62-0.
French side Catalans Dragons emulated their opponents, as they trimmed down their pre-season schedule. Steve McNamara’s men took to the field just once in preparation for the new season, as they were beaten 24-10 by Hull FC in terrible conditions at the KCOM Stadium.
Former Catalans centre Krisnan Inu is set to make his first competitive appearance for Widnes against his former club, while Papua New Guinea star Wellington Albert could also make his debut. Hep Cahill looks set for his 150th appearance in the British game, and if Tom Olbison is selected it will be the 100th time he has featured in Super League.
Vikings: Patrick Ah Van, Wellington Albert, Greg Burke, Hep Cahill, Ed Chamberlain, Jay Chapelhow, Chris Dean, Tom Gilmore, Rhys Hanbury, Aaron Heremaia, Chris Houston, Krisnan Inu, Stefan Marsh, Joe Mellor, Tom Olbison, Charly Runciman, Lloyd White, Matt Whitley, Sam Wilde
There could be a competitive debut for former Wigan Warriors star Michael McIlroum on Sunday afternoon, however Greg Bird is not being risked due to a knee injury. It could be a day to remember for Vincent Duport as he is one try away from the club record which is currently held by Clint Greenshields.
Dragons: David Mead, Jodie Broughton, Iain Thornley, Brayden Wiliame, Samisoni Langi, Luke Walsh, Remi Casty, Paul Aiton, Sam Moa, Benjamin Garcia, Julian Bousquet, Mickael Simon, Vincent Duport, Jason Baitieri, Michael McIlorum, Lewis Tierney, Benjamin Jullien, Lucas Albert, Antonio Maria
The 2017 season will be buried at the back of the minds of both Widnes Vikings and Catalans Dragons, as they kick-off the new campaign against each other on Sunday. Both clubs ended the regular season in the bottom four, consigning themselves to The Qualifiers. The Vikings’ avoided the Million Pound Game with a 12-10 victory over their French counterparts, meaning the Dragons had to face Leigh Centurions at the Leigh Sports Village. Their Super League status was secured with a 26-10 triumph, and they will be looking to avoid such a dramatic end to this season by making the top eight.
Catalans have always been criticised for their form away from home, and if they are going to get their first win in Widnes since 2012 they will be relying on their forward pack. Much of their success in past campaigns has been down to their ability to dominate the middle of the park. Their opponents look light in the front row, with Gil Dudson and Alex Gerrard out injured, so the visitor’s best bet could be to take the game up the guts. It will be interesting to see if the Vikings’ new recruit Wellington Albert makes his debut, and his size and power could go a long way to stopping Catalans’ in their tracks.
Widnes are undefeated in their last five home meetings with Catalans, having won three and drawn two. The Dragons’ last away win against the Vikings was 42-34 on 20 May, 2012.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Sunday 4th February
Venue: Select Security Stadium
Referee: Ben Thaler
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