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Page last updated at 21:18 GMT, Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Widnes Vikings appoint Denis Betts as coach in shake-up

Paul Cullen (left) and Denis Betts
Cullen (left) and Betts in his playing days at Wigan

Championship side Widnes have appointed former Wigan boss Denis Betts as their coach for next season.

The ex-Great Britain forward replaces Paul Cullen, who becomes the Vikings' director of rugby.

"I know from [chairman] Steve O'Connor and Paul Cullen that the Vikings have very exciting plans for the development of the club," said 41-year-old Betts.

"My role is to coach the first team squad and achieve a consistent level of success on the field."

The Vikings are the favourites to beat Halifax, Featherstone and Barrow to securing a return to the Super League when the new batch of licences are revealed next March.

Chris Holme

The Rugby Football League will award the three-year licence, beginning in 2012, based on infrastructural and financial requirements, which Widnes already meet. And O'Connor is hopeful Betts's arrival will further strengthen the Merseysiders' case.

"Denis Betts has considerable experience of coaching at a senior level with both Wigan Warriors and Gloucester RUFC," said O'Connor. "His decision to join the Vikings is a symbol of our determination to return to Super League and build a team of the highest quality."

Second row Betts played his club rugby with Wigan and Auckland (now New Zealand Warriors) before landing his first significant coaching role at Wigan as Mike Gregory's assistant in 2003.

When Gregory became ill, Betts was promoted to the Warriors' hot-seat but only lasted a year to make way for the more experienced Ian Millward.

Betts worked under Millward until November 2005, and two months later he became skills and development coach at union Premiership club Gloucester, where he was employed for four and a half years.

Former England coach Cullen is a former England coach who was in charge of Widnes last season before going on compassionate leave when his wife was dying, and is now back working again.

The Vikings, who were in the Super League between 2002 until 2005, finished fifth in the second tier last term but former England coach Cullen did not oversee the whole campaign because of the death of his wife.

The 47-year-old said of Betts's appointment: "We have a great squad of players for Denis to work with and we believe that he has the ability to improve the skills and performance of our players as we move towards the completion of our Super League licence application in December."

The shake-up at the club also sees Betts's ex-Wigan team-mate Terry O'Connor, who had done a similar role to the one Cullen will now occupy, made director of player welfare, while Stuart Wilkinson has left his position as assistant coach.

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see also
Five clubs in Super League queue
08 Oct 10 |  Rugby League
Widnes complete deal for Ropati
17 Sep 10 |  Rugby League
Widnes deal for Tyrer completed
14 Sep 10 |  Rugby League
Widnes complete I'Anson signing
06 Sep 10 |  Rugby League
Vikings release four from squad
25 Aug 10 |  Rugby League
Super League club to lose licence
04 Aug 10 |  Rugby League
Cullen blasts players' attitude at Leigh
14 May 10 |  Rugby League

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