Kingstone Press Championship previews
Friday February 8
Sheffield Eagles v Batley Bulldogs (7.30pm)
Sheffield Eagles coach Mark Aston has doubts over Liam Higgins’ availability after he suffered concussion in last week’s defeat at Halifax.
Aston insists his team is ready to change its style of play to get the most out of the early season fixtures.
He said: “We like to play football. We want excitement and the conditions weren’t conducive (at Halifax) to the way we play, but you have to adapt. We’ll roll our sleeves up and work.”
Ayden Faal is ruled out for Batley Bulldogs after suffering an ankle injury against Keighley Cougars.
Batley coach John Kear said: “I was delighted with what we served up last week, considering it was the first day of the season, the opposition was tough and the conditions were awful.
“But we’ll have to be better this week, there’s no doubt about that.
“I’m expecting to face a bit of a backlash after Sheffield lost at Halifax, and people keep reminding me we haven’t beaten Sheffield in about 1,000 years or something – everything seems to be stacked against us.”
Kear added: “Mark Aston drills his team very well and they play very much in his likeness.
“The game management of their half backs is exceptional, they’ve got a good kicking game, a tough pack and some real strike power out wide.”
Sunday February 10
Barrow Raiders v Doncaster (3.00pm)
Barrow Raiders coach Darren Holt faces a minor reshuffle after winger Lee Haney suffered a knee injury last week.
Holt said: “It’s not looking good for Lee, and he brings something that other wingers don’t, but we’ve got plenty of cover.”
Barrow went down 42-12 against Hunslet Hawks, and Holt admits his side has work to do.
He said: “The score was a fair reflection, there’s no getting around it. We were like rabbits in headlights.
“We started the game OK, but then we kicked the ball out on the full and from there it was a downward spiral.
“We’ve a young squad, a lot of whom are new to the Championship intensity and standard, but the boys are a lot better than they showed last week.”
Doncaster coach Tony Miller looks set to make checks on Craig Robinson and Grant Edwards before finalising his side to travel to Cumbria.
Miller has warned his side they need to be switched on at all times to be able to cope with life in the Kingstone Press Championship.
He said: “We just weren’t smart enough (last week).
“We panicked and tried to go down the blind side too many times when it was the wrong decision. It’s something we need to work on.”
Dewsbury Rams v Featherstone Rovers (6.00pm Premier Sports)
Dewsbury Rams coach Glenn Morrison will pick from a full strength squad as he prepares to host Featherstone Rovers in Sunday’s Kingstone Press Championship fixture.
But Morrison is looking for major improvements on last week’s display, despite picking up a 22-16 win at Doncaster.
Morrison said: “I was happy that we got a win out of a sloppy situation, because sometimes you lose the game in situations like that, but we were a little bit off.
“For example, we only completed at about 50 per cent, so we know we’re going to have to up our game – especially against these boys. They’re top class.”
Morrison added: “Liam Finn is a quality player and I know Steve Crossley from Bradford, but they’ve got quality right across the board. All our boys will have to be on their game.”
Sam Smeaton (knee) and Michael Haley (foot) are both unavailable for Featherstone, who started the season with an impressive 38-6 victory against Leigh Centurions.
Rovers coach Daryl Powell said: “We’ve got a lot of quality about us, and I’m really excited about the season in front of us.”
He added: “Dewsbury have started really well and they’ll be a tough proposition, but we’ll look after ourselves and go there to put our best foot forward.
“We’ve a few things we need to right from last year, and I’m confident we’ll do that, but we know there are going to be some tough challenges around the corner.”
Keighley Cougars v Whitehaven (3.00pm)
Keighley Cougars coach Paul March could boost his squad with the addition of dual-registered players ahead of Sunday’s Kingstone Press Championship clash with Whitehaven.
March said: “We’re in talks with Castleford at the minute, so we could have some extra bodies.”
Keighley lost 42-10 at Batley last week, a result that March is keen to forget.
He said: “Mentally we weren’t at the races. We were soft in our attitude in defence and while we did play some good stuff with the ball, we let too many little things have a big impact on the game.
“This is our first home game since a pre-season match in December, and we want to show everyone in Keighley that we’re a good team.”
Lee Doran is set to miss out for Whitehaven after suffering a chest injury last week.
Haven coach Dave Woods is aiming for back-to-back wins following his side’s 32-22 triumph over York City Knights.
Woods said: “We were pleased to get the three points, but we need to be smarter in how we manage the game.”
On Keighley, he added: “Any team that Marchy is involved with is going to be aggressive, tough and play smart footy, and they’ll always have a never say die attitude. We know it’s going to be really tough down there.”
Leigh Centurions v Hunslet Hawks (3.00pm)
Leigh Centurions coach Paul Rowley has fitness concerns over a handful of players, although he is keeping their identity a closely guarded secret.
Rowley said: “We’ve a few checks to make, but however things turn out, we’ll be fielding a strong team.
“We deserved everything we got last week (Leigh lost 38-6 at Featherstone), and we accept responsibility as a group. We’ll learn from it.
“We were pretty aggressive and honest in our review, and we know we’ve got a lot more to offer than that.
“Hunslet are an expensively assembled team this year, and they’ll be a good test.”
Hunslet Hawks players Danny Grimshaw (knee) and Luke Helliwell (concussion) both face late fitness tests while Jimmy Keinhorst has returned to Leeds Rhinos.
Hawks coach Barry Eaton said: “Leigh are one of the fancied teams this year.
“They’ve added real strength in Beswick, Aspinwall and Higson, and their squad looks stronger on paper than it was last year.
“We certainly need to be able to control the ruck if we’re going to do well, because Sean Penkywicz is one of the most destructive players in the Championship if his team gets on the front foot.”
Workington Town v Halifax (3.00pm)
Workington Town coach Gary Charlton is still without Marc Shackley, who now looks set for another three weeks on the sidelines as he struggles to overcome a knee problem.
Charlton is also unsure of which dual-registration players he will have available, but is in confident mood after last week’s 14-10 win at Swinton.
He said: “We tackled really well and our defence was very good, but we’ll have to be even better on Sunday.
“Halifax have got good players right through their team. They’ve got plenty of firepower and we’ll have to be ready for that. We’ll need another good performance in defence.”
Halifax coach Karl Harrison is without Iain Davies, who suffered a rib injury during last week’s 18-10 win over Sheffield Eagles.
Harrison said: “Workington are a big, physical team with plenty of Super League experience in Jamie Thackray, Ewan Dowes and Peter Lupton.
“They played extremely well against Swinton, and we also don’t know which players they’re going to get from Widnes. They’ll be tough opposition, that’s for sure.”
York City Knights v Swinton Lions (3.00pm)
York City Knights coach Gary Thornton has doubts over Luke Stenchion (ankle) and Matt Nicholson (groin) as he prepares his team for Sunday’s Kingstone Press Championship fixture with Swinton Lions.
However, Ed Smith and Aaron Lyons are expected to be available following recent injury problems.
Thornton is looking to bounce back from last week’s 32-22 defeat against Whitehaven with a convincing display against the Lions.
Thornton said: “I’m expecting a tough game from Swinton; Workington must have done really well to beat them last week.”
York are expecting to be without Josh Bowden, who has returned to Hull FC, but could draft in other dual registration players.
Thornton added: “That’s the nature of the beast with dual registrations: it makes it difficult from a coaching point of view in terms of knowing the opposition, but the flip is that you get the benefits as well. That’s all part of the deal.”
Swinton are still expected to be without Chaz I’Anson (broken thumb).
Lions coach Steve McCormack insists his new-look side will improve. He said: “I would never use that as an excuse – that we are not gelling and we need more time – but obviously as the season goes on we’ll get better.”