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Super League: Catalan Dragons v Widnes Vikings preview
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Widnes Vikings have the chance to underline their status as Super League play-off contenders by claiming a first win over Catalan Dragons on Saturday afternoon.
Denis Betts' men were humiliated 76-6 on their inaugural visit to Perpignan two years ago but halted a three-match losing run at the hands of the Dragons when they drew 32-32 at the Halton Stadium last June, and they travelled to the south of France with confidence having won five of their first six matches of the season.
The Vikings also pushed the Catalans to the wire in a pre-season friendly at Stade Gilbert Brutus but Betts is wary of a side that appears to have turned the corner after beginning the season with five straight losses.
"It's a really tough place to come," Betts said. "They are starting to find their form.
"They played particularly well at home to Huddersfield and they played well against Wigan at Wigan.
"But we're full of confidence at the moment. We've just got to keep our consistency high and the scoreboard will take care of itself.
"When you come to France you have to play well for the 80 minutes. That's what we need to achieve and, if we can do that,, we know we're doing the right thing."
Betts is forced to change his half-back pairing for the fourth time in eight matches after Tom Gilmore joined Joe Mellor on the sidelines with a knee injury sustained in the Vikings' Challenge Cup win at Halifax.
Fortunately for Betts, Danny Craven is fit to resume his partnership with Kevin Brown after recovering from a hamstring injury, while Rhys Hanbury - one of only two overseas players in the squad - returns at full-back.
Betts is forced to switch 21-year-old Declan Hulme to centre for only his second Super League start in the absence of experienced duo Cameron Phelps and Stefan Marsh.
Rhodri Lloyd, who filled in at centre against Halifax, could be facing a lengthy spell on the sidelines after sustaining a serious knee injury in that match.
"It's not looking good for Rhodri," Betts said. "He's gone to see a specialist and we're waiting for the report. He may need a micro fracture which could be the end of the season for him.
"Our outside backline is beaten up but it creates a chance for Declan Hulme. He's part-time because he's still at university but he's a young kid we have high hopes for."
The Dragons are without former Warrington second rower Louis Anderson, who was injured in their Challenge Cup win over London, but recall back-row forwards Greg Mounis and Elliott Whitehead after they were rested last week.
Catalan Dragons squad: Escare, Pryce, Pomeroy, Oldfield, Bosc, Elima, Lima, Taia, Mounis, Pelissier, Whitehead, Millard, Simon, Bousquet, Paea, Baitieri, Duport, Cardace, Garcia
Widnes squad: Allen, Brown, Cahill, Clarke, Clough, Craven, Dean, Flynn, Gore, Hanbury, Hulme, Johnson, Joseph, Kavanagh, Leuluai, O'Carroll, Owens, Tickle, White
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Super League Table
|9||Hull K R||22||20|
|11||Salford Red Devils||22||17|
|13||Bradford Bulls *||22||4|
|Thursday 31st July|
|20:00||Wigan vs Salford|
|Friday 1st August|
|20:00||Hull vs St Helens|
|20:00||Catalan Dragons vs Warrington|
|20:00||Leeds vs Bradford|
|Sunday 3rd August|
|15:00||Widnes vs Hull K R|
|15:00||Wakefield vs Huddersfield|
|15:30||Castleford vs London Broncos|
|Thursday 14th August|
|20:00||Hull K R vs Wigan|
|Friday 15th August|
|20:00||Salford vs Catalan Dragons|
|20:00||Warrington vs Castleford|
|Sunday 27th July|
|Huddersfield 38 - 16 Catalan Dragons|
|Bradford 16 - 8 Wigan|
|Warrington 26 - 40 Wakefield|
|Saturday 26th July|
|London Broncos 10 - 62 Hull K R|
|Friday 25th July|
|Salford 18 - 22 Leeds|
|St Helens 44 - 22 Widnes|
|Thursday 24th July|
|Hull 18 - 18 Castleford|
|Sunday 20th July|
|Hull K R 18 - 38 Salford|
|Huddersfield 52 - 26 Bradford|
|Saturday 19th July|
|Catalan Dragons 40 - 6 Wakefield|
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