The Robins put their quest for promotion back to the Superleague on hold for a week when they travel to the AJ Bell stadium tomorrow (kick off 8pm) to take on Salford Red Devils in the 6th round of the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup.
A repeat of last season’s million pound game, live on Sky sports could be another cracker and a yardstick for the red and whites. Having already beaten Superleague side Leigh Centurions to set up this tie and cruising at the top of the Championship, the Robins and coach Tim Sheens go into this game with an air of confidence, though coach Sheens conceded that the Red Devils will be strong favourites to progress to the last 8 of the competition, but his side head over the Pennines with plenty of belief they can overturn the odds and progress themselves.
The Red Devils are in red hot form currently riding high in 3rd place of the top division surprising a few seasoned watchers with their displays this season, taking some big scalps along the way, including scoring 54 points at the KCOM to hand Hull FC a drubbing just a month ago so it could be a long hard night for the Robins if they don’t play to their full potential.
On the other hand Ian Watson, the Red Devils head coach knows that Rovers are a Championship side in name only and have plenty of threats themselves across the park, including the returning Thomas Minns (pictured) to the speedy Robins backline,
were he will face former fans favourite Kris Welham (above) who has returned to his best, revelling in the open expansive rugby Salford have shown this year. Having missed recent weeks with concussion issues Minns will be eager to take the field and add to his own impressive try tally this season. With try threats all over the park on both sides this could turn out to be a thriller and may go down to the last kick of the game (sound familiar?).
Gareth O’Brien the man who broke Robins hearts seven months ago returns for the home side, as does big men Lee Mossop, Junior Sa’u and Weller Hauraki who is in line to make his seasonal debut, so it could come down to the battle of the big men up the middle that determines which way this game goes.
With this in mind Sheens recalls to his squad the vastly experienced Nick Scruton and ex Giant Josh Johnson as well as Minns. Youngsters Joe Cator, Brad Clavering and Joe Wardill dropping out.
Whichever side wins the middle certainly have the speed on the outside to make the most of it. Both sides have speed to burn out wide Ryan Shaw for the Robins and Greg Johnson of the Red Devils are lightning quick and only need an inch and they are gone.
The half back battle and the kicking game of both sides will be a very interesting tussle as it pans out in front of the Sky cameras. The home duo of Robert Lui and ex Robins captain Michael Dobson have been in imperious form of late so the Robins on loan SuperLeague stars Jamie Ellis and Jordan Abdull will have to be at the top of their games to give the red and whites the field position they will need to win this game.
If the Robins let Salford get on a roll they could be in for a hiding but if they get in the faces of them as they did with Leigh they could make it a very interesting game.
Regardless of the result tomorrow, this game will go a long way to showing what level the Robins need to be at come the middle 8s and the main objective of this season and getting back amongst the elite, because if they win, or run Salford close, the belief will be there that they can compete in the 8s, but no Rovers fan would mind a run in the Cup.