A look ahead to the opening weekend’s games in the Kingstone Press Championship, including Leigh’s attractive looking clash with Bradford.
Sunday February 15
Kingstone Press Championship
Leigh Centurions v Bradford Bulls (3.00)
A big crowd is expected at Leigh Sports Village when last year’s champions take on Bradford Bulls and Leigh Centurions coach Paul Rowley is relishing the prospect. “It’s a game that has captured the imagination,” he said.
“We expect a tough afternoon but we’re looking forward to it. Pre-season has been good, we’ve kept the nucleus of the squad together. We’re in good shape and enthusiastic. It will be a great game come what may.
Rowley has no injury worries and will be picking from a fully fit squad.
Bulls’ coach James Lowes shrugs off the favourites tag saying: “We’ll take each game week to week and if we don’t turn up with the right attitude then we’ll get beat. That’s the same in any league – Super League or Championship – so I’m not going to put any pressure on myself or the team by talking us up.
“We need to turn up with the right attitude to give everybody a game in this league.”
Batley Bulldogs v Workington Town (3.00)
Batley Bulldogs coach John Kear says: “We’ve had a decent pre-season but Workington have as well so it will be two teams who are very well prepared feeling confident and bullish about what’s in front of them and I think it will be an excellent game of Rugby League.”
Kear has beefed up his squad after the club pulled out of their dual registration deal with Huddersfield Giants. “We felt we had to increase the number as well as the quality of the squad for competition for places and to keep training at a high standard. My belief is that if you train at a high standard and high intensity, that’s how you play.”
Two players, who won’t be considered for Sunday’s game, are Keegan Hirst who is about two or three weeks away from full fitness and Brad Hey who broke his foot in pre-season.
Phil Veivers, the Workington Town coach is expecting a very competitive game. “We’ve had a very tough pre-season, the boys put a lot of effort in. In both pre-season games, I thought we were strong defensively and got plenty of positives out of it.”
Veivers is still trying to add a half-back to his squad but is being hampered by red tape. “In the meantime I’ll make do with what I’ve got. Callum Philips played against Wigan, he went pretty well so that’s an option. Another option is the dual registration with Wigan.”
Elliot Miller and Kris Coward are unavailable because of long term injuries, while Dan Rooney (shoulder) and Liam McAvoy (ankle) will also be missing. James Duerden won’t feature because he’s got a broken nose and there are doubts over Tom Walker and Latu Fifita.
London Broncos v Doncaster (3.00)
London Broncos coach Joey Grima said: “With 17 new players into a squad it’s going to take some time. To be fair we’ve only had two trial games and the second one wasn’t the best performance.
“We understand that Doncaster are a side that fly under the radar and performed quite well last year, so we certainly are respecting Paul Cooke and his players. For me it’s about doing the fundamentals right.”
Injured French half-back William Barthau is the only player unavailable for selection
Paul Cooke, the Doncaster coach said: “We’re very much looking forward to testing ourselves against one of the competition’s favourites. Playing them so early in the competition, we just don’t know what they’re going to be like.”
“We’re not full strength but we’re not too far off and I’m quite happy with the squad we’re picking from.”
Whitehaven v Halifax (3.00)
Whitehaven’s preparations have been disrupted by the departure of their coach Steve Deakin with Brett Seymour and James Coyle stepping in. Chief Executive Barrie Richardson said: “They were both assistant coaches to Deaks and I’ve been really impressed with the way everyone has pulled together. They have really put their hands up and want to get things right for the weekend.
“We’ve managed to sign Paul Johnson a prop forward and Grant Gore a scrum-half or hooker on a month’s loan from Widnes and they will be available for selection.”
Halifax coach Richard Marshall said: “It’s never easy going up to Whitehaven. Being our first competitive hit out, it’s going to be a tough ask up there. But it’s something we’ve prepared for and we’re looking forward to it.”
Tommy Saxton and Ben Heaton are injury doubts but Adam Tangata’s work permit has come through so he’s included in the squad.
Monday February 16
Featherstone Rovers v Hunslet Hawks (7.30)
This game is being played at the Rapid Solicitors Stadium, home of Wakefield Trinity Wildcats, due to on-going pitch maintenance at the Big Fellas Stadium.
Andy Hay, the Featherstone Rovers coach, said: “It’s not ideal, it’s almost an away game I suppose but we’ve played at Wakefield in a trial game and a lot of players have played there before so it’s not a massive disruption. It’s just another field and a big field as well which suits us.
“We’re going into the game pretty strong. We’ll have a final check this week but we’re almost picking from a full squad so it’s going to be a tough selection.”
Hunslet Hawks coach Barry Eaton says the switch to a Monday evening kick-off will be tough on his players, who all have full time jobs “It’s a little bit of a hindrance,” he says, “but I’m hoping that we won’t allow it to be an issue for us.”
“We have a good nucleus of new players to go with those we retained from last year. They’ve bedded in really well. I’ve got a tough selection headache picking a side for Monday.”
Only Marcus Elliott, Luke Hardbottle and Matthew Tebb are unavailable through injury.