It has become more than apparent that as the individual rounds of the Qualifiers have unfolded the performances by this weekend’s opponents, London Broncos, have earmarked them as the surprise package of the tournament and they are a team Head Coach Ian Watson is very impressed by, also.
Watson said: “They have a really good attitude and are a real credit to coaches, Danny Ward and Jamie Langley. They are both up for the Championship’s Coach of the Year award which shows what a great down they’ve done.
“When former coach Andrew Henderson left to join Warrington a number of players also moved on and it was widely expected the team would struggle this season, but they have improved on last season finishing second and are up for the Championship’s Team of the Year.
“They never give up and just keep grinding away, even when they have fallen twenty points behind.”
London Broncos caused an upset in the opening game of The Qualifiers when they knocked off Betfred Super League outfit Widnes Vikings thanks to a late Jarrod Sammut drop-goal and Watson knows the threat the maverick halfback poses.
Watson said: “That is exactly his style of play and you just have to expect anything from him when he gets the ball. Alongside that though, the really noticeable thing is they stick to their processes and game plans extremely well and even Jarrod has bought into that too.
“All the players and backroom staff have stuck together to turn all the negative predictions on their head, and for me, they have the potential to be even more dangerous than either Toronto or Toulouse. They have been in contention in every game they have played.
“Both Toronto and Leeds felt that they had put themselves in commanding positions, but London came back at them and put them under real pressure, not only on the field but also on the scoreboard. They absolutely blew Toulouse away, and beat Super League opponents Widnes on the road.
“This game could be a real banana skin for us so we absolutely have to get our preparations right and then focus on what we do well.”
Jackson Hastings will serve the second of a two-game ban this weekend while Josh Wood – who occupied the role last week at the Emerald Headingley Stadium – is now suffering with an injury however Watson will welcome back another halfback option this weekend.
Watson said: “I thought all the boys who played did really well at Leeds. They knew they would have to do it tough, but they really stuck with all their processes and showed belief in them.
“Josh Wood, until his injury, did a really good job, in place of Jackson, while Rob Lui played particularly well and managed the game impeccably throughout along with Joey Lussick.
“Jack Littlejohn wasn’t quite ready last week and there was no point in taking risks at that stage of his recovery, but the extra week has been good for him and he is now fully fit and looking forward to the game on Saturday.”
????️ "I'm looking forward to seeing Jack Littlejohn back in action."
????️ Salford Red Devils Head Coach Ian Watson is expecting the returning halfback to make an impact this weekend at @LondonBroncosRL.
???? You can read Ian Watson's thoughts later this evening. pic.twitter.com/FA5YVHTkEJ
— Salford Red Devils (@SalfordDevils) September 20, 2018
It has been a difficult week off the field with a late rearrangement of Saturday’s fixture and the team are not impervious to these events in terms of preparation.
“It has affected things like being able to book hotels and coaches,” Watson said.
He added: “This has been a bit of nightmare because on a Saturday there is competition from football and rugby union, who have already got in first, so you end up having to adapt all your plans around what is left to you.
“We certainly couldn’t so without the money Sky Sports put in though so we just have to take the rough with the smooth.
“As far as playing is concerned, our training schedule is pretty well set, and we have a great backroom staff who are able to adjust things and minimise the effects on the players, but they also know that having to be flexible is part of being a professional.”