The 2018 Qualifiers campaign kicks off on Thursday evening as the Widnes Vikings host the London Bronocs at the Halton Stadium. Here’s everything you need to know…
Interim Head Coach Francis Cummins has made six changes to the Vikings squad that lost 24-52 against the Castleford Tigers in the last game of the regular Super League season.
Olly Ashall-Bott, Gil Dudson, Aaron Heremaia, Chris Houston and Charley Runciman all return while new signing Charlie Gubb is in line to make his debut for the club.
Wellington Albert, Ted Chapelhow, Owen Farnworth, Rhys Hanbury, Ryan Ince and Sam Wilde have all lost their place in the 19-man squad.
Widnes 19-man squad: Ah Van, Ashall-Bott, J. Chapelhow, Craven, Dean, Dudson, Finn, Gubb, Hansen, Hauraki, Heremaia, Houston, Inu, Leuluai, Mellor, Olbison, Runciman, D. Walker, Whitley.
Broncos Head Coach Danny Ward has named an unchanged side after they overcame Barrow Raiders 72-6 to secure second place in the Championship on the final day of the regular season.
Team 19-man squad: Battye, Butler, Channing, Cunningham, Davis, Dixon, Evans, Harrison, Hellewell, Hindmarsh, Ioane, Kear, Pelissier, Pewhairangi, Pitts, Sammut, Spencer, Walker, Williams.
The Vikings are unbeaten in the last five fixtures against the Broncos with London’s last win coming way back in June 2012.
These two sides last met in last year’s Qualifiers campaign when Widnes comfortably ran out 38-16 winners.
Tries from Matt Whitley, Lloyd White, Danny Craven (2), Charley Runciman and Joe Mellor (2) helped the Vikings to a vital two points which saw them keep their Super League status.
KEY BATTLE – Danny Walker vs James Cunningham
It will be the battle of the England Knights hookers when Walker and Cunningham come face to face on Thursday evening.
Both have been named in consecutive Knights Performance Squads due to their good from for their respective clubs and both will have a hand in how the game pans out.
The two players both have a similar style of play – they are quick to dart out of dummy half, have great acceleration and pace and are rugged in defence despite their small stature.
They both have the promise to break a game open from nothing and it will be fascinating watch to see which young hooker will grab the game by the scruff of the neck and dominate from behind the play-the-ball.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Thursday 9th August
Venue: Halton Stadium
Referee: Liam Moore