Co-operative Championships previews
Saturday April 2
Barrow Raiders v Batley Bulldogs (7.30pm)
Martin Ostler (hamstring), Nathan Mossop (shoulder) and Jamie Thackray (ankle) remain sidelined for Barrow Raiders.
But new coach Nigel Wright believes his side are capable of building on last week’s 42-16 win over York with another convincing performance against Batley Bulldogs.
Wright said: “We’re changing a couple of things as we go, but we’re moving in the right direction.
“We could have come away with a win against Leigh, and we backed that up with a proper performance against York.
“It’s still nowhere near where I reckon this group of players can get to, but you can’t go running before you walk.”
Raiders could also play “a couple” of debutants as Wright works to complete transfer deals before Saturday’s match.
“Hopefully we might get a couple in by the weekend,” said Wright. “I’ll be very disappointed if we don’t.”
Batley coach Karl Harrison steered his team to a 38-12 win over Hunslet last week, but he will be forced to make at least one change for Saturday’s trip to Barrow.
Ash Lindsay was given a two-match ban at Tuesday’s RFL disciplinary hearing, although Harrison is boosted by the news that none of his squad suffered injuries against the Hawks.
Harrison said: “All the guys who came in (against Hunslet) played very well and staked a claim for a spot against Barrow on Saturday.”
Toulouse Olympique v Featherstone Rovers (7pm)
Inconsistent Toulouse Olympique will search for their second win of the Co-operative Championship campaign on Saturday.
But coach Gilles Dumas knows his men need to show significant improvement from last week’s 34-16 defeat at Sheffield if they are to have any chance of overturning Featherstone Rovers.
Dumas said: “The damage was done in the first half. In the second half we came with the attitude of doing the right things.
“We had good defence and go forward, although it was not perfect.”
Influential import Josh Lewis is expected to return for Olympique after overcoming an ankle injury, but hooker Craig Cook faces two months out with a knee injury.
Rory Bromley (Achilles) is also out, but Bruno Ormeno could recover from a thigh problem in time to face Rovers.
Matty Dale could return to Daryl Powell’s Featherstone squad. Rovers will travel to France on Friday in an effort to acclimatise ahead of Saturday’s game.
Powell said: “Travelling to the south of France over a weekend is very demanding and we have to prepare properly. We have to look after ourselves carefully.”
He added: “Ironically we tend to do well when we go down there. We’ve beaten them the last two times.”
Sunday April 3
Sheffield Eagles v Halifax RLFC (3pm)
Sheffield Eagles winger Danny Mills (dislocated finger) will be assessed before Mark Aston finalises his squad for Sunday’s mouth-watering Co-operative Championship fixture with Halifax RLFC.
Jack Howieson and Dane McDonald are expected to return for the Eagles, who last week beat Toulouse 34-16.
However, Aston is demanding a change in attitude for Sunday’s match. He said: “I’m not happy about the way we played in the second half – we were disrespectful.
“I asked the lads to be ruthless, and we weren’t.”
Miles Greenwood (dead leg) is Halifax’s most recent injury concern, having suffered the injury during last Thursday’s 32-20 defeat against Featherstone.
That result left Halifax at the bottom of the Co-operative Championship table as the only team to have lost all of their games this season.
Under-pressure coach Matt Calland said: “I can’t fault the effort, but we need to be smarter in certain areas.
“We showed a lack of discipline in the second half (against Featherstone), and that started the rot.”
Widnes Vikings v York City Knights (3pm)
Widnes Vikings coach Denis Betts is set to be without Kurt Haggerty (knee) for Sunday’s visit of York City Knights.
Betts, who labelled his side’s second half performance in their 54-16 defeat at Leigh last week as “embarrassing”, will be expecting a major change in attitude for Sunday’s Co-operative Championship fixture.
Brett Waller and James Haynes remain a couple of weeks away from a return to first team action, but York coach Dave Woods has no new injuries to contend with.
Woods is hoping for a reaction to last week’s 42-16 defeat against Barrow, but has warned his team not to expect an easy ride at the Stobart Stadium.
Woods said: “It’s a tough one for us this week. We’re going to Widnes after they’ve been hammered twice, and they’re also going to be pretty pumped up by the Super League announcement.
“We don’t know what to expect from them in too much detail. We’re concentrating on our own goals, and if we achieve those then hopefully we can get something out of the game.”
Co-operative Championship One
Doncaster RLFC v Rochdale Hornets (3pm)
Unbeaten Doncaster go hunting for a fourth consecutive Co-operative Championship One victory as they bid to maintain their impressive start to the season.
But coach Tony Miller will be without Mick Butterfield (thigh) and Aaron Dobek (ankle), but are boosted by the return of Leeds Rhinos centre Mike Coady on a one-month loan deal.
Dean Colton, Scott Spaven and Stu Sanderson face late fitness tests before Miller can finalise his squad, while Kyle Kesik is suspended.
Rochdale Hornets coach John Stankevitch is expected to name a similar squad to the one that beat London 40-20 last week.
“We managed to avoid any further injuries,” said Stankevitch.
“However, it was a poor performance against London. I’m quite disappointed at the manner in which we’re playing at the minute.
“I don’t want to be too critical of the players because we’ve been thrown from pillar to post in terms of getting any continuity due to losing so many players.
“We’re not getting spanked, but we’re conceding far too many points. I just want to make sure we’re moving in the right direction.”
On Doncaster, he added: “They’ve started well, although I’ve not seen any of their league games so far.
“We’re going there worrying about ourselves and not so much bothered about what Doncaster may throw at us.”
Keighley Cougars v Oldham Roughyeds (3pm)
Keighley Cougars player-coach Jason Demetriou has a 60 per cent chance of playing as he battles to recover from a recent quad injury.
However, Tom Burton and Craig Moss are still a fortnight away from full fitness.
Cougars fell to a 24-10 defeat at Whitehaven last week, leaving Demetriou to call for an improvement in his side’s attitude.
He said: “We were out-enthused, and they were more aggressive than us. We’ve set standards that we want to match every week, and we didn’t live up to those in the first half.
“However, the reaction of the boys after the game and during training has been very good. I’m confident we’ll put up a different performance on Sunday.”
He added: “Oldham have only won one from three, so that’s going to make them very determined, and they’re always a top team in this division. We’ll have to be prepared.”
Oldham coach Tony Benson continues to battle against a mounting injury crisis.
Jack Bradbury and Sean Robinson are the Roughyeds’ latest doubts having sustained dead legs during the 68-24 defeat against Swinton.
Luke Sutton (quad) also faces a fitness test on Thursday night before Benson decides his team.
Benson said: “It’s very difficult at the moment.”
He added: “It’s just continuing inexperience, not just on how to play the game but also on how to react. Swinton did well at targeting our weaknesses last week.
“Keighley are one of those teams that are very difficult to beat at home. We haven’t won there for a while, but that gives us something to aim for. We’re certainly set up with that goal in mind.”
London Skolars v Whitehaven RLFC (3pm)
London coach Joe Mbu starts a six-month touchline ban, three of which are suspended, after his role in a mass brawl that broke out during Skolars’ recent game against Doncaster.
Assistant coach Oliver Bloom was also handed the same punishment ahead of London’s fourth Co-operative Championship One fixture of the season.
Whitehaven coach David Seeds is likely to include Max Wiper, a dual-registration signing from Salford, when his side travel to London for Sunday’s Co-operative Championship One clash.
Seeds said: “Max is a centre and he’ll probably play this week. It’s an area where we’ve been vulnerable of late, and we’ve got five games coming up in April so his arrival will just add a little bit of competition into the mix.”
Carl Rudd remains sidelined, while David Ford is suspended after picking up a one-match ban at Tuesday’s RFL disciplinary hearing.
On London, Seeds added: “The message to the lads this week is to make sure we don’t have any complacency.
“We’ve scored a total of 46 points in our last two games and won them both, while London have scored 42 points in their last two games and lost them both. That shows they’re not too far off.”
Swinton Lions v Gateshead Thunder (3pm)
Swinton Lions coach Steve McCormack insists his side will not be distracted by their own impressive start to the Co-operative Championship One season.
The Lions are top of the table after three wins from three, including last week’s 68-24 blitz of Oldham.
But McCormack said: “It’s nice to be top, but I don’t really look at the table.
“We are just going to keep our feet on the ground and concentrate on the next game. We’re not thinking beyond Gateshead.”
Swinton trio Neil Rigby (ankle), Alex Hurst (ankle) and Dean Thompson (knee) will all be assessed this week.
Karl Brandt and Mike Ellis return for Gateshead Thunder, but Chris Parker is missing after receiving a one-match ban in midweek.
Gateshead coach Richard Pell said: “We do lack some experience, but we’ve shown we can do it in patches at Keighley and South Wales. It’s just about concentration levels.
“We’ve got to try to improve week by week. At the end of last season we were getting beat by 70 or 80. We’ve got to get those margins down and then take things from there.
“It’s a week-by-week process. If we go with the right frame of mind, get some ball control and build some pressure, then we’ve a chance.”
Workington Town v South Wales Scorpions (1pm)
Elliott Miller will have a scan on Monday in a bid to solve a troublesome shoulder problem.
Workington Town coach Gary Charlton said: “We can’t seem to figure out what it is, but he hasn’t got full movement and he’s struggling.”
Miller is likely to be Workington’s only injury absentee on Sunday when Town host South Wales Scorpions, although Ryan MacDonald starts a two-match suspension.
Charlton is calling on his squad to show their true qualities after last week’s 26-16 defeat at Doncaster.
He said: “The best team won last week. We got out-enthused by a bunch of young lads, and they played on the back of our mistakes.
“I expect a big change in the way we approach the game. We were disappointed considering the two weeks before against Swinton and Oldham. It was maybe just an off-day, but we shouldn’t be getting out-enthused by anybody.”
On the Scorpions, he added: “It’s a long trip up here and that travel does affect you. They’ll probably stop overnight, but it’s hard work.”
Scorpions’ Curtis Cunningham is doubtful, while Neil Dallimore is definitely out. Robin Lock could return for the Welshmen.
Scorpions’ director of rugby Mark Rowley said: “We had a hard time up at Workington last year, so hopefully from that we’ve learned a bit about them and how to play at their ground.
“We know how good Workington are at home and we’re expecting a tough but competitive game.”