Hock back for Vikings
Widnes Vikings will be boosted by the presence of Gareth Hock as they seek to make history by pulling off a first Super League victory over St Helens at the Halton Stadium tomorrow.
Saints have won the last 15 matches between the sides, going back to Widnes’ 20-17 triumph in the old Stones Bitter Championship in April 1994.
But they lost at home to Huddersfield Giants for the first time in the Super League era on the opening weekend and will be desperate to avoid further embarrassment under new coach Nathan Brown.
That will make the visitors even more dangerous, according to Vikings coach Denis Betts.
“I’m hoping they can play that badly again but I just can’t see it,” said Betts. “They’ve got too many good players and they’re too well coached. The response could be massive, we know that.
“Saints are a better side than they showed last week but we can only look at ourselves. We’ve got a good bunch of players and the players coming back will increase our quality.”
The Vikings have experienced outside backs Shaun Briscoe and Cameron Phelps back from injury to help offset the loss of youngster Danny Craven with a broken collarbone but most eyes will be on England forward Hock, who has recovered from shoulder surgery in time to make his debut.
Former England captain Jamie Peacock will make his 200th appearance for Leeds at Castleford tomorrow, when the Rhinos will come up against former team-mate Weller Hauraki, who will be making his home debut for the Tigers.
“I do still keep in touch with the boys so it will be a bit weird after playing for a couple of years at Leeds but that’s behind me now,” Hauraki said.
“I’m playing for a new club and it will be a good test for me. I don’t feel I have a point to prove. I just want to go out there, play some good footy and do what Basil (coach Ian Millward) tells me to do.
“It’s a derby so it’ll be massive but it all comes down to how we go about things on the day. I’m sure it’s going be an awesome atmosphere - I can’t wait.”
Huddersfield will be looking to build on their impressive opening win over St Helens when they host London Broncos tomorrow.
Giants coach Paul Anderson has included new signing Ukuma Ta’ai in his 19-man squad, just four days after he flew in from Auckland, after being impressed by his performance in training.
Anderson said: “Ukuma gives us some more options. We don’t yet know his best position as it’s very, very early days for him but he has come to play and looks in reasonable shape.
“He will clearly get much fitter as time progresses but at this stage he is in my thoughts for London. I will clarify the starting line-up and bench after our final session and announce it on the day of the game as usual.”
Hull FC and Bradford Bulls will play their round-two fixture tomorrow afternoon after being thwarted by motorway chaos on Friday night.
The match at the KC Stadium was postponed as Hull found themselves with just 10 senior players by kick-off time after a section of the M62 was closed due a serious accident in the rush hour.
The Bradford team made it belatedly to the KC Stadium after being given a police escort through a diversion and the kick-off was put back from 8pm to 8.30pm and then 9.15pm, but nine of Hull’s players who are based in West Yorkshire remained stranded, as well as hundreds of Bulls supporters.