Co-operative Championships previews
Previews of this weekend’s action in the Co-operative Championship and Co-operative Championship One.
SATURDAY MARCH 27
Toulouse Olympique v Barrow Raiders
Toulouse coach Giles Dumas could be boosted by the return of Constant Villegas from an ankle injury.
But Mike Mitchell (elbow), Bruno Oremeno (thigh), Mathieu Griffi (shoulder) and Sebastien Payan (shoulder) are all extremely doubtful to face the Raiders.
Barrow coach Steve McCormack is expecting a big improvement on last week’s disappointing display against Featherstone.
Raiders lost 20-6 at Craven Park and must now hope to get back on track in the south of France.
McCormack said: “We were beaten from the first second until the last second.
“The whole team just lacked something from start to finish, but we will put it right.”
Matt James, Jermaine McGilvary and Anthony Blackwood, who all made their Barrow debuts last week, are expected to keep their place in McCormack’s 17-man squad.
SUNDAY 28 MARCH
Dewsbury Rams v Widnes Vikings
Lee Lingard returns for Dewsbury but Rob Spicer and Alex Bretherton are still a fortnight away from action.
Rams coach Warren Jowitt said: “Lee is defensively very good and he generally clears things up if someone breaks our line. Rob and Alex will also be back soon and they bring a never-say-die attitude. That’s what my team needs at the moment because we’ve got a lot of young, inexperienced players out there.”
Jowitt added: “Last week was a marked improvement on the week before. Defensively we were very good in some areas and lacked in others, but that’s more of a technique problem rather than a poor team defence. Once we get that sorted out then we’re definitely going in the right direction.
“When we got beat by Featherstone it was 40 points to whatever, but we didn’t get hammered. We gifted those points to Featherstone and I took something out of that. We smartened up and turned things around against Sheffield. There was a lot more effort and commitment.”
He continued: “We’ve just got to build on it for this week. The lads are buzzing because they know they’re going in the right direction. This week we’re looking to make an improvement on the Sheffield game and we’re not a million miles away.”
Widnes travel to West Yorkshire without experienced prop Gareth Haggerty, who will miss the next four games after being handed a suspension by the RFL’s disciplinary committee.
Vikings lost 30-28 against Halifax last week in a thrilling Co-operative Championship clash.
Coach Paul Cullen said: “Halifax were fractionally better than us. We know we can get better and we know we have some very good players to come back into the side.”
Featherstone Rovers v Whitehaven
High-flying Featherstone remain as one of two teams with a perfect record in the Co-operative Championship.
Having beaten Batley, Dewsbury and Barrow, Rovers will be full of confidence this weekend.
But coach Daryl Powell is remaining focussed. He said: “We won’t get carried away. There are 17 games to go and it’s a tough old league.”
Whitehaven coach Ged Stokes is boosted by the return of up to six players for Sunday’s clash.
Mick Govin, Leroy Joe, Spencer Miller, Andy Gorski and Iain Mort are all definitely available, while Kyle Amor could return if Leeds elect not to include him in their squad to face Wigan.
Stokes said: “These guys returning will make a massive difference to our side, especially in two or three weeks’ time when they’ve got their match fitness back.”
He added: “Featherstone are one of the most consistent and form teams of the competition. They played very well against Barrow and they’ll be doubly hard to beat on their own pitch.
“It’s going to be a very difficult game for us and we’re all aware of that.”
Halifax v Leigh Centurions
Halifax coach Matt Calland is demanding a massive improvement from his side after they crashed out of the Northern Rail Cup with a surprise defeat against Hunslet last Sunday.
Calland said: “We’ve got a lot of work to do and there is going to be a lot of changes.
“A lot of our players didn’t want to know and that’s very disappointing.
“We played as individuals and you can’t do that in a team sport. We’ve got a massive game coming up against Leigh.”
Centurions are expecting to be boosted by the return of dual-registered Lee Mitchell, who was 18th man for Warrington last week.
Assistant coach Paul Rowley said: “Halifax will have been disappointed last week and they’ll be eagerly awaiting this game.
“It’s going to be a measure of where both teams are, although they’ll be more nervous approaching the game than we will. We’re perhaps a bit of an unknown quantity to them whereas they’ve shown their cards over the last two years.”
Leigh emerged 44-12 victors over Whitehaven last week, a display that pleased Rowley.
He said: “We knew it was going to be a tough, physical challenge and we were coming off the back of two games against struggling sides, so to come out of our game against Whitehaven with a convincing scoreline was very pleasing.
“Our defence is proving the cornerstone of what we’re doing. We’ve got one of the best defences in the league at the moment and that’s something we want to keep going.”
Co-operative Championship One
Blackpool Panthers v Swinton Lions
Casey Mayberry and Paul Anderson return after being rested for Blackpool’s midweek Northern Rail Cup victory over Doncaster.
However, there is bad news for Simon Svabic. Blackpool coach Martin Crompton said: “Simon’s got a knock on his knee and it looks like he might need an operation. He’s probably out for a couple of months.”
Crompton watched Swinton’s game against Doncaster last week in an effort to familiarise himself with this week’s opponents.
He said: “They had a very physical encounter against Doncaster. Neither team played to their potential and that’s something we’ve got to be wary of. Each team performs to a different level every week.
“They’ll be looking to bounce back and put in a much improved performance on Sunday. We’ve got to be wary of it because they’re much better than they showed against Doncaster.”
Swinton coach Paul Smith should be fit for Sunday’s game while three-quarter Rob Foxen is also expected to return.
Smith said: “We were happy to get the win against Doncaster, but we dropped off performance wise in the last 10 or 15 minutes and that’s something we need to rectify for this trip to Blackpool.”
Doncaster v York City Knights
Doncaster coach Tony Miller remains hopeful, despite watching his team fall to a 40-20 defeat against Blackpool in their midweek Northern Rail Cup clash.
Miller said: “We’re heading in the right direction and I'm sure that we'll give a good account of ourselves against York on Sunday.”
Doncaster duo Danny Stanley (arm) and Liam Brown (knee) face late fitness tests before Miller finalises his squad.
Paul Stamp is struggling to be fit for York after suffering a back injury against South Wales Scorpions last week, but loan signing John Davies could feature after linking up with the Knights from Castleford Tigers.
York’s assistant coach Chris Thorman said: “It was important for us to get back to winning ways.
“We’re not hitting our straps by any means, but if we improve again this week then we’ll be happy.
“It’s important that we know we can win ugly when we need to do.
“We’ve done it against Leigh and South Wales and having that knowledge that we can do that, particularly in close, high pressure situations, will stand us in good stead.”
Hunslet Hawks v Rochdale Hornets
Hawks coach Paul March will be without Darren Robinson (three matches) and David March (two matches) as the pair begin to serve the suspensions they were given by the RFL’s disciplinary committee on Tuesday.
Paul March steered his side to an impressive win at Halifax last week and says his side’s progress in the Northern Rail Cup should boost their chances in Co-operative Championship One.
He said: “We needed a performance and we didn’t have anything to lose. We went out there as individuals and we came back in as a team.
“We’ve got a great bunch of lads and they all want to work hard. Hopefully we’ve got some belief now and we can take it into the league campaign.
“We’ve got to play with the commitment we showed against Halifax, and if we do that people will start looking at us.”
Hornets are facing a half-back crisis after Ryan Powell (back) and Steven Roper (shoulder) were ruled out of action. Chris Hough is also injured.
Coach John Stankevitch said: “Both ourselves and Hunslet have shown that we can score points, but we’ve also both shown that we can concede points.
“This week’s game should be a very good battle. They rely a lot on offloads and losing David March will affect how they play, but we just need to focus on our own game plan. If we do that, we’ll give ourselves a chance.”
South Wales Scorpions v London Skolars
South Wales coach Anthony Seibold is set to give Matt Hutchings his debut off the bench while Jamie Murphy likely to earn his first start.
Seibold said: “After a strong effort away against York last weekend we were very disappointed to lose in the last minute, but it showed we still have a long way to go with regards to being smart enough to clinically close out a game against good opposition.
“Although we picked up a bonus point and have two wins on the board, nothing changes from our point of view with regards to our pre-season goal of winning five matches in 2010 and all our efforts and endeavour are being put into achieving this goal.”
Skolars pair Matt Carter and Matt Thomas are likely to miss the trip to Wales while the club have been hit by news of a serious injury to Tony Williams.
Coach James Massara explained: “It’s bad news for Tony – he needs operations on both his shoulders, so he’s probably going to be out until July or August. He’s got a lot of rehab and frustration in front of him and we feel for him.”
Massara added: “Last week at Gateshead there were a lot of disappointed people but we’re doing a lot of things very well. We just need to keep working hard and work on the things that we’re not doing particularly well. We can be a match for anybody.”
Workington Town v Gateshead Thunder
Workington coach Gary Charlton rates Darren King (shoulder) as having only 50/50 chance of playing against Gateshead, while Neil Fraser (knee) and John Lebbon (neck) are expected to miss out.
Charlton said: “We’ve still got to learn to play for 80 minutes rather than 40 because last week we didn’t do what we’d trained to do.
“Gateshead had a bad result against Batley but they came back from that and beat London.
“Most of the teams in Co-operative Championship One will be wanting three points out of their home games. We’re no different, but we’ve got to be on our guard because if we don’t play well then Gateshead will give us a real run for our money.”
Gateshead coach Chris Hood has a fully fit squad to select from. Karl Brandt, Robin Peers and Rhys Clarke are all available earlier than expected.
“That’s testament to their attitude and to the abilities of our medical staff,” said Hood.
He added: “I was happy that we were able to put that Batley game behind us and it was good to get a first win as a new team, but we’re still on minus three points.
“Having said that, the lads have really stepped up training this week and they’ve been absolutely buzzing.
“We played Workington in the Northern Rail Cup. They’re a big side and they play down the middle, with smart halfbacks working off that.
“They’ve had some tough results over the past few weeks, but Derwent Park is still a difficult place to go.”