VIKINGS head coach Paul Cullen will be relieved to welcome back a number of first team players for tonight’s clash at Leigh (7.30).
Jim Gannon, Dean Gaskell and Dave Allen are all back in contention following injury and the five dual registered players, who were ineligible for the Wigan defeat, are once again available for selection.
Cullen insisted that it’s back to business in the race for the Championship tonight, following his side’s Challenge Cup exit.
He said: “We were not too disappointed with the Wigan result, as a club we are delighted that we got eight homegrown players into the side.
“This week we have to get ourselves ready for what is the more important game against Leigh.”
The Widnes boss believes his young stars have bright futures ahead of them, after getting a taste of the big time.
“There is an endless amount of positives for our young players, many of them have Super League aspirations and now they know the standard they have to get to, after playing a team on top of their game.”
And Cullen is hopeful that with several key players back in the squad this week, the Vikings will be able to finish the season strongly.
He added: “There is finally light at the end of the tunnel. It has been a difficult period for us, but it is promising that we are starting to get some of our senior players back.
“This game against Leigh is far more important to us than the Challenge Cup. Leigh are unbeaten and at full strength so it’s going to be a tough match. They beat us twice last year so we have got a massive point to prove.”
Assistant coach Stuart Wilkinson has added fuel to the fire for tonight’s clash, by claiming the Vikings are beating their derby opponents ‘hands down’ in the battle for Super League licensing.
He claimed: “When you look at the licencing battle, I think we are winning hands down. Not just against teams in this competition, the pressure is on Super League clubs.
“We have bigger gates, we’ve got more talented youngsters, everything is in place already here, the whole plan for this club is really strong.”
However, Wilkinson is expecting a more closely contested affair in tonight’s on-field battle.
“Leigh have got a lot of good, experienced players so we are expecting a really tough match, they have got a huge pack and their kicking game is strong too,” added the assistant.
“It is a massive challenge for us, they are sitting up there and they are playing exceptional rugby.”