WIDNES Vikings’ new-look squad will benefit from the recent international adventures of one of their coaches.
While many of his colleagues were resting before another tough domestic season, Paul Cullen’s assistant Stuart Wilkinson was helping former Widnes star Bobby Goulding lead the France national team into the Four Nations, against England, Australia and New Zealand.
Despite losing all three matches with Les Tricolores, Wilkinson believes the experience will prove invaluable to him as a coach and he intends to bring new training and tactical ideas to life on the training pitch at Widnes.
“I loved it and really enjoyed working in a different country,” said Wilkinson. “We were largely based in France and only really came over for the games.
“It’s great working with and against the game’s elite and pitting your wits against the best players and coaches in the world. Since returning I’ve already discussed tactics with Paul at length and we’ll see what we can do.
“At Widnes we prepare specifically for each game, but when we can play more open rugby next season we will. But if teams are running us down the middle then we’ll be ready for that too as we are versatile and can mix it up.”
He added: “Sometimes we will see a lot of good football played, but other times it won’t be appropriate and although we might not look pretty we will see some good results.”
Cullen asked Wilkinson to assist with first team coaching duties midway through last season and the Widnes number two is already well into his pre-season plan for the freshly- assembled Vikings squad.
“Paul and I worked together with England years ago and I see it as my job to pick up whatever he puts down, listen to him and challenge him. He trusts me to make the preparations from top to bottom, with individual skills, team units and tactics, but ultimately its his team.
“Pre-season is a great time of year, everyone here is galvanised, enthusiastic and committed and Paul and Terry (O’Connor) have recruited well. The lads have got through a high volume of work with Mick (Cassidy) over the last few weeks and now its time to get the balls out and work on some skills.
“We are not worried about what other clubs are doing right now and we will concentrate on making every Widnes player better at catching, passing and running lines, and if we get all that right then we’ll be up there.”
Vikings will meet Warrington Wolves at the Stobart Stadium Halton on Boxing Day, December 26 (3pm), for the World of Beds Cup.
On January 10 they have another pre-season game when they go to Fylde RUFC to play Blackpool Panthers.
The Vikings’ final warm-up game will be on Sunday, January 24, seven days before the Northern Rail Cup gets underway, with Super League opposition to be confirmed.