Ian Watson | “This is going to be a big match”

Salford Head Coach, Ian Watson, considers this weekend’s clash against Widnes a crucial one as the side look to make it back-to-back victories – the key to starting any sort of a winning run.

“This is going to be a big match for us, as, at the start of the season, we identified our home matches, together with away games against teams like Widnes, as ones we really need to win.

“Performing with consistency against these teams is vital in this, and we shall have to muster up the same type of performance to back up the victory over Hull.

“To be fair to the lads, with the exception of a few spasmodic slips in a couple of recent matches possibly caused by some of the combinations taking time to build, there has been a degree of consistency throughout much of each of the games we failed to win, whereas last week we held it together throughout the whole match.”

Widnes, similarly, have had a somewhat unpredictable season, so far, but Ian believes that the regular first team experience their young players had last year will stand them in really good stead as the season progresses.

“The injury issue they went through last year will have benefitted those young players who gained regular week by week game time and that makes them a much stronger squad now.

“They have over forty players in their first team and they have all had some first team experience, including that of playing through the Qualifiers, at the end of the season.”

The same, of course, is also true of our younger players, as we see the likes of Jake Bibby and Josh Wood not only holding down regular places but also weighing in with substantive contributions to each and every game, while others such as Ryan Lannon and Dan Murray are putting pressure on their more senior teammates who currently have had the nod ahead of them.

“We took it upon ourselves to give all our youngsters game time last year, because these lads are going to be a big part of the squad as time moves on.

“We do, though, have to ensure that the balance is right so that we get the wins along the way.

“We may not have finished the season particularly well, but the experience the youngsters gained from being involved in the Super 8s will have done them good.”

One example of how players can develop comes in the form of Niall Evalds, whose touchline diffusion of Marc Sneyd’s attempted forty-twenty, earned him many plaudits.

“Twelve months ago it is unlikely that he would have done that, which shows how his rugby education and knowledge have developed.

“He is playing a whole lot smarter now and applying his understanding of his role and what it requires, whereas previously he was relying on expending a lot of energy by racing around unnecessarily.

“We are really lucky to have had someone like Niall around to replace Gareth O’Brien once he had decided to move on, and since returning to the fullback role in the last couple of weeks Niall has been outstanding.”

As always, the 4G playing surface is an aspect of the game which will undoubtedly play some part in the outcome of the encounter.

“That pitch reacts differently, but if you train on it of course you get used to how it plays.

“Most clubs train on grass surfaces and expect things such as the bounce of the ball to be exactly the same, so there are a lot of things for us to take into account though the main thing is for us to focus on our own game.”

After such a great performance last weekend it seems only fitting that the players now have the opportunity to show off their skills, and the team’s entertainment value, to a larger audience on TV.

“They really earned the right to do that, with the way they played against Hull.

“Every single player knew his role and carried it out to the letter, and that will be key for us again on Thursday.”