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Widnes Vikings can build on Salford victory
VIKINGS are hoping that their new-found confidence will take them through Sunday’s tough game against play-off seeking Hull KR despite picking up some more knocks at the weekend.
New prop Eamon O’Carroll broke his arm at Salford on Friday and is ruled out for the rest of the season, there are doubts over on-song full back Cameron Phelps and Widnes are still without skipper Jon Clarke.
But despite that Vikings, with two wins and two one-point losses in their last five outings, are in good form and will fancy their chances even against a team packed with big names.
Coach Denis Betts said: “Hull KR are a very good side – if you look across their side - Blake Green, Michael Dobson and Lincoln Withers are clever players. They have fantastic strike weapons in Con Mika and Mickey Paea and front rowers who have played State of Origin.
“They now have three losses in a row and that hurts a team of such quality.
“Craig Sandercock is a good coach and will be working hard to make it right this week.
“We are going to be missing Jon Clarke, which is massive for us, and means Paul McShane having to do a lot of work.
“We have a doubt over Phelps and have lost O’Carroll, who had been good.
“That changes our bench a little bit from the past four or five weeks.
“This is this first time we have been hit by injury in key places for a while so we will how we react to this.
“We are at home but they are hurting and are a big, strong physical side. It is going to be a good game, they are a good side with quality and are looking for a little bit to click.”
Rovers suffered a surprise home defeat to local rivals Hull on Monday – their third defeat on the spin – and there is a feeling that Widnes may face the rare prospect of starting the game as favourites.
That is based on the way in which they took Salford apart on Friday to chalk up their first Super League away win since beating Leigh in June 2005.
Betts was pleased with the outcome, with signs of all that hard work during the hard times beginning to bear fruit.
“It is a nice reward. Salford did not play that well but they were not allowed to because of our line speed and our discipline,” Betts said.
“We have been through the same review process and tried not to get ahead of ourselves and know the challenges are still all ahead of us.
“It is has been hard here at times and we have had some tough Mondays, but we have tried to stay positive as a group and look at their best bits every week – even when it has been pretty hard to do that.
“We have tried to build on what they are good at rather than rip them to pieces over what they are not good at.
“We are starting to see the confidence in the group from the self-belief of what they can do.”
The absence of O’Carroll, who was due to have a plate inserted into his broken arm today, will mean that Betts will have to ask his front rowers to play longer minutes than they have been.
It is not an area that they are that short on with starting prop Ben Cross in good form, Steve Pickersgill capable of playing long minutes, Sione Kite now up to speed and Ben Davies playing well Betts will confidently ask them for more minutes each stint.
He would not be averse to shoving big back rower up into the front row if needs be, although it admits it will be a change from their recent routine.
Betts said: “Our rotation has been good – they are all spending 40 minutes out there and having two dynamic stints.
“They are going to have to stretch them to another five to ten minutes each, which doesn’t sound a lot but in the middle unit it is pretty intense place.”