Widnes open this year’s Magic Weekend at St. James’ Park with a crucial tie against Salford – a win would consolidate their position in the top eight.
Widnes have suffered a drastic slide down the table from top spot to eighth after seven successive defeats, but head to Newcastle with a bolstered squad.
Captain Kevin Brown and centre Chris Bridge return to the side from injury, two players who were catalysts for the Vikings’ success earlier in the season.
Brown also has a certain affinity with the Magic Weekend, scoring a hat-trick in the 38-16 victory over Salford in 2015. Widnes have struggled to score points without the half-back, failing to score 20 points in six of their recent seven losses.
Comparing that with earlier in the season, where they put 46 on Hull and 56 on Leeds, Brown’s presence is crucial in making Widnes tick.
Salford’s league form has been fairly inconsistent recently, recording victories but failing to back that up a week later. They are also out of the Challenge Cup, and are deep in bottom four territory after their six-point deduction for breaking the salary cap.
But in a week where owner Marwan Koukash has hit out at both the RFL over their management of the game and Catalans Dragons, coach Ian Watson will be instead focusing on climbing back up the table with two points this afternoon.
They have numerous in-form players, namely centre Junior Sa’u, who has eight tries in four in all competitions. The Red Devils would have wanted youngster Niall Evalds available today, who scored a hat-trick last week against St Helens, but he is out through suspension.
Salford Red Devils 19-man squad: O’Brien, Bibby, Carney, Joseph, Lannon, Lui, Hauraki, Dobson, Flanagan, Tomkins, Kopczak, Murdoch-Masila, G Griffin, Jones, A Walne, Krasniqi, Sa’u, Vidot, J Walne
Widnes Vikings 19-man squad: Bridge, Brown, Cahill, J Chapelow, Dean, Dudson, Hanbury, Heremaia, Houston, Leuluai, Manuokafoa, Marsh, Mellor, O’Carroll, Runciman, Sa, Thompson, White, Whitley