Hull KR host Widnes knowing a 14-point victory will secure Super League status. Here’s everything you need to know…
On Sunday, the players of Hull KR will put their bodies on the line in a bid to secure their Super League status against already-relegated Widnes Vikings.
Rovers need to win by 14 points or more to finish in the top three of the Qualifiers. This would mean an automatic return to England’s elite division and avoid the dreaded Million Pound Game.
This season marks the last in the format’s short history, a factor which adds further tension to the quest to be in Super League before the shake-up.
The new rulings would have kept Rovers safe, with Widnes relegated as the bottom side in a one-up, one-down ultimatum setup to replace the elaborate Qualifiers.
Hull KR had the chance to seal safety last week, but squandered a 19-0 lead against Toulouse in a crazy match across the Channel.
Tries from Rob Mulhern, Craig Hall and Chris Atkin should have been enough to see Rovers into another year of Super League rugby, but their defensive frailties were highlighted to the extreme, so their fight goes on.
The Robins are without talismanic captain Shaun Lunt for the showdown against Widnes after he was hospitalised with an infection earlier in the week, but have been boosted by the return of Maurice Blair ahead of schedule from a calf injury.
Blair was assessed following this week’s final training session, along with the likes of Robbie Mulhern and Joel Tomkins who are both named in the 19 despite picking up knocks last week.
Hull KR 19-man squad: Junior Vaivai, Danny McGuire, Nick Scruton, Mose Masoe, Maurice Blair, James Greenwood, Ben Kavanagh, James Donaldson, Chris Clarkson, Tommy Lee, Robbie Mulhern, Liam Salter, Chris Atkin, Will Oakes, Danny Tickle, Joel Tomkins, Todd Carney, Craig Hall, Ben Crooks.
The Vikings will be playing in the Championship for the first time in eight years in 2019 – their relegation from Super League confirmed by last Saturday’s 20-12 defeat to Toronto Wolfpack.
Twin brothers Jay and Ted Chapelhow have both signed new one-year deals with the club this week, and they are among eight changes to a rotated squad.
Rhys Hanbury and Stefan Marsh could both make their first appearances in the Qualifiers, while Aaron Heremaia returns and youngsters Owen Farnworth and Keenan Brand are included.
Krisnan Inu, Patrick Ah Van, Joe Mellor, Tom Olbison, Danny Walker, Weller Hauraki, Liam Finn and Charlie Gubb are all out, and many will probably have played their last game for the club.
Widnes 19-man squad: Keanan Brand, Owen Buckley, Jay Chapelhow, Ted Chapelhow, Chris Dean, Owen Farnworth, Tom Gilmore, Rhys Hanbury, Harrison Hansen, Aaron Heremaia, Chris Houston, Jordan Johnstone, MacGraff Leuluai, Joe Lyons, Stefan Marsh, Charly Runciman, Lloyd White, Matt Whitley, Sam Wilde.
Hull Kingston Rovers have already enjoyed success over Widnes Vikings twice this season, winning both regular league games in high-scoring fashion.
A brilliant 30-12 win at KCOM Craven Park, inspired by a Todd Carney brace, was followed up by a dramatic 24-26 victory in Cheshire, with Liam Salter scoring the winning try.
KEY BATTLE – Danny McGuire (Hull KR) vs Aaron Heremaia (Widnes Vikings)
Danny McGuire has been one of Super League’s standout players for the best part of a decade and, although he is used to fighting at the other end of the table, his vast quality and experience will be crucial to Rovers’ chances in this game. It should be a win, but can he inspire them to the 14-point gap they need?
One player who could stop Rovers in their tracks, however, is Aaron Heremaia. The New Zealander has had as good a 2018 season as anyone for Widnes and is one of few experienced heads in a nearly all-change Vikings squad. His team may not be firing regularly, but if he does so tomorrow, Rovers are in for a harder game than may they imagine.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Saturday 30th September
Venue: KCOM Craven Park
Referee: Chris Kendall