Widnes Vikings travel to the AJ Bell Stadium on Thursday night to face the Salford Red Devils in front of the Sky Sports cameras looking to end a run of nine straight defeats in Super League.
Salford Red Devils
Ian Watson has made three changes to the side that was beaten 45 – 14 by Hull FC at the KCOM stadium last week.
Josh Jones, Mark Flanagan and Lee Mossop miss out with Gavin Bennion being joined in the squad with Ed Chamberlain and Greg Burke, who are in line to make their debuts against their former side.
Both players have initially signed on loan til the end of the season from the Vikings but their futures lie with the Red Devils having signed deals for 2019.
Salford Red Devils 19-man squad: Greg Johnson, Kris Welham, Junior Sa’u, Robert Lui, Jack Littlejohn, Craig Kopczak, Logan Tomkins, George Griffin, Lama Tasi, Tyrone McCarthy, Ben Nakubuwai, Josh Wood, Derrell Olpherts, Jake Bibby, Daniel Murray, Gavin Bennion, Jake Shorrocks, Ed Chamberlain, Greg Burke.
Vikings Interim coach Francis Cummins has made three changes as well from the side that fell to defeat to Catalan over in the South of France.
Alex Gerrard and Chris Houston return from injury with youngster Dan Norman coming into the squad for the first time. Sam Wilde, Brad Walker and MacGraff Leuluai are the three players who drop out for Widnes.
Weller Hauraki keeps his place in the squad and is in line to play against his parent club who he left last week.
Widnes Vikings 19-man squad: Patrick Ah Van, Jay Chapelhow, Ted Chapelhow, Danny Craven, Owen Farnworth, Alex Gerrard, Tom Gilmore, Rhys Hanbury, Weller Hauraki, Aaron Heremaia, Chris Houston, Ryan Ince, Jordan Johnstone, Stefan Marsh, Joe Mellor, Dan Norman, Tom Olbison, Charley Runicman, Matt Whitley.
HEAD TO HEAD
These two sides last met in March when Widnes ran out 24-16 winners at the Select Security Stadium in what was their last win in the league this year.
Tries from Chris Dean, Krisnan Inu, Aaron Heremaia and current Salford player Greg Burke helped the Vikings to the two points with Craig Kopczak and on-loan Widnes player Weller Hauraki scoring for the Red Devils.
Previous to that, Salford had won the last six games against the Vikings, a run stretching back to September 2015 when Widnes succumbed to a 24-10 defeat on home soil.
KEY BATTLE – Logan Tomkins v Aaron Heremaia
With both sides desperate for a win, the pressure will come down on the shoulders of the starting hooker’s to lead their sides around the park and look to get on the front foot.
Tomkins has the ability to break open a game from the behind the ruck but that has been missing from his performances this season and it’s hurting Salford as a whole.
What worked so well for the Red Devils last season was their play from dummy half, a lot of which Tomkins would set the tone for before letting Kriss Brining play his natural game.
For the standards the former Wigan man can play at, he’ll be looking for a big game to help his side to a big two points on Thursday.
The same sentiment is echoed for Heremaia at Widnes, who has established himself as the starting hooker for the Vikings this year, largely due to the injury to Lloyd White.
Despite his age, both Denis Betts and Francis Cummins have used Heremaia from the start to help guide the side around the park with his experience. If Widnes have any chance of avoiding the wooden spoon, Heremaia will need to call upon all that experience from throughout his extensive career to drive the Vikings to a valuable two points.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: 14th June 2018
Venue: AJ Bell Stadium
WHO WILL WIN?