Denis Betts: Widnes Vikings sack head coach after eight years
Widnes Vikings have sacked head coach Denis Betts, ending his eight-year association with the Super League club.
Betts, 48, oversaw Widnes' progression from the Championship to rugby league's top flight in 2012 and led them to the Challenge Cup semi-finals in 2014.
But he has secured a top-eight league finish only twice and the Vikings are currently bottom of Super League with three wins from 12 games this season.
Assistant Francis Cummins has been appointed as interim boss.
"Denis can be proud of his contribution to this club over the past eight years," Widnes chief executive James Rule said. "Whilst it is regrettable to lose someone of his experience and commitment, we believe that it is now the right time for a change in leadership. Denis leaves with the absolute best wishes of everyone at the club for the future.
"Naturally, it will take time to identify and recruit a long-term successor for the role. However, we are grateful that Francis Cummins will be stepping up as our head coach, on an interim basis.
"Francis has proven himself to be a talented, dedicated and knowledgeable coach."
Betts, who has also spent time as assistant to England coach Wayne Bennett, was the second longest-serving head coach in Super League.
"It is with sadness that I leave the club," he said. "But I feel proud of what has been achieved during my tenure, and of the contributions of our players and back-office staff."
Reviving a sleeping giant
The former Great Britain international enjoyed a stellar playing career with England, Wigan and Auckland Warriors - and was given the chance to revive a sleeping giant when he took over at Widnes in 2010.
Despite a haul of trophies from the 1970s and 1980s that earned the club the nickname of 'The Cup Kings', the Vikings had been out of Super League since 2005 but received a licence to return in 2012.
Although limited by budgets at times, recruitment during Betts' tenure saw players of the calibre of England half-back Kevin Brown, ex-Wigan half-back Joe Mellor, back-rower Chris Houston and full-back Rhys Hanbury wear the black and white.
In addition, academy talent such as hooker Danny Walker and back-row forward Matt Whitley has progressed to the first-grade squad.
However, results have been Betts' downfall, with a bottom-of-the-table finish last term followed by a poor start to the current campaign, including a sixth-round Challenge Cup exit against Leeds earlier this month.