Betts full of admiration for old club
22nd March 2013
Former Wigan Warriors favourite Denis Betts reckons rugby league owes a huge debt of gratitude to his old club, going as far as to suggest it would not exist but or their prolific production line of talent.
The Widnes Vikings head coach could field a team comprised almost entirely of former Wigan players for tomorrow evening’s meeting of the two clubs at the DW Stadium.
Even without the injured ex-Wigan trio of Stefan Marsh, Cameron Phelps and Kevin Brown as well as England forward Gareth Hock, who is prevented from playing against his parent club by a clause inserted in his loan agreement, Betts has six former Warriors in his 19-man squad.
Dave Allen, Shaun Briscoe, Jon Clarke, Ben Cross, Eamon O’Carroll and Joe Mellor will all make a return to their old club with perhaps a point to prove, although Betts says that is nothing new for the Warriors.
“Wigan must have that every week because I don’t think there’s a team in the competition that hasn’t somebody who has come from there,” he said.
“If we are being totally honest, if Wigan didn’t exist, I don’t think rugby league would exist or if it did it would be quite a small game.
“When you’re trying to pick up players, the massive pool of players that are from Wigan who just fall off the edges when they get people pushing through or they recruit influences you.
“They just seem to produce more players than anybody else. You even get a lot of Yorkshire sides with players who’ve played at Wigan somewhere along the way.”
Widnes lost 54-12 at the DW Stadium last season, their first one back in Super League, but Betts believes that his players will no longer find the trip as daunting.
“When we went there last year, there were four or five lads who had never even been to the place, never mind played there,” he said.
“They looked awe-struck, as if they were intimidated just by the stadium and the feeling of being at a club of the magnitude of Wigan. We’re a different group now, with a different mentality.”
Wigan coach Shaun Wane is looking for his side to bounce back from their defeat at Leeds Rhinos but insists he will treat the visitors with respect.
“Widnes are a very good team,” he said. “They showed in the first half against Catalan last week that they can score tries.
“They are a force to be reckoned with and obviously they’ve a lot of ex-Wigan players. Joe Mellor, Eamon O’Carroll and Ben Kavanagh have all been in our system and I know them well.”
The teams will have one eye on the weather following the postponement of Wakefield Trinity Wildcats’ Friday-night game with Leeds but Bradford Bulls’ fixture against Catalan Dragons in Perpignan tomorrow is not in any doubt.
The Bulls were forced to battle through the snow this morning to catch their early-morning flight to Barcelona and coach Francis Cummins admits the travel adds to the size of their task.
“We try and get the players to do things as near to normal as possible but the travel does knock you about a bit,” he said. “It would be nice if we could fly into Perpignan but we have to go to Barcelona, hence the early start.
“On the plus side it gives us some time to get together. We have been holed up at Tong now since November – we didn’t have a pre-season camp - so this is a chance to spend some time together in a different environment and hopefully it can spark us up.”
After winning their last two matches on the road, London Broncos seek their first home victory of the season when Hull FC visit the Twickenham Stoop tomorrow.
The Londoners’ win over Castleford Tigers last Sunday enabled them to climb off the foot of the table and Hull’s England winger Tom Briscoe is expecting his side to face a tricky test.
“They are a dangerous side and are particularly strong down their left side,” Briscoe said. “Kieran Dixon has scored six tries and Chris Bailey is going well. We have to be strong defensively across the board but particularly on that right side of our defence.”