27th February 2019, 14:17 | StHelens

Watson expects Mossop to perform against Saints

Watson expects Mossop to perform against Saints

Salford Red Devils coach Ian Watson is expecting the arrival of an all England front row at the AJ Bell Stadium to bring the best out of his own international prop Lee Mossop.

St Helens’ unbeaten run so far in Betfred Super League has been built on the performances of the returning Alex Walmsley, alongside England’s newest prop Luke Thompson and veteran hooker James Roby.

Watson is confident former Wigan Warriors forwards Mossop and Gil Dudson and Australian hooker Joey Lussick can match their Saints counterparts as the Red Devils look to go top of the table with victory on Thursday night.

“It’s a good test for our middles,” Watson said. 

“Lee Mossop has re-built over the last couple of years to get his shoulders right and to get his fitness levels up there and I’m sure he will be targeting this game to try to get back into a Great Britain spot.

“I know he’s really ambitious as a player and he wants to get back to winning things and to get back to international recognition.

“There’s no better way for him to make a statement than to outplay a Luke Thompson or an Alex Walmsley live on Sky and let everyone see that Moose is back to his best.”

Mossop, 30, who is captaining Salford this year, was left out of Watson’s initial squad and was wearing a “moon boot” at the club on Wednesday but has been given the all-clear from the experts. 

 “He’s seen a specialist and physios, we’ve had loads of communication going on over the last couple of days but he’s fine,” Watson said.

“We took him out of the squad because we didn’t know whether he was going to play or not but they’ve all looked at it. It’s about his pain threshold and, if he can handle it, there are no dramas.”

Wins over Huddersfield Giants, London Broncos and Hull KR have put the Red Devils in sight of top spot but they were heavily beaten by Leeds Rhinos in their last home game and Watson admits the visit of St Helens will provide a true measure of their play-off credentials.

“You need to beat them teams,” Watson said. “It’s no good beating a St Helens and losing to all them three.

“But your true kind of test of your strength in depth and your quality comes against these best teams, the Wigans, the Leeds, the St Helens. 

 “The test for us is to stay in that arm wrestle against the best teams. We let ourselves down to be fair against Leeds. We know we need to be better this week.”

Saints coach Justin Holbrook, who has lost centre Kevin Naiqama to concussion, is expecting a stern test of his side’s 100 per cent record.

“They had a good win last week,” he said. “They are playing really expansive as they have got (Jackson) Hastings and (Rob) Lui who look dangerous when they are moving the ball and (Niall) Evalds at the back as well.

“For us it’s about improving our own game. Although we won last week, there are areas we want to improve.”