PREVIEWS to this Sunday's Kingstone Press Championship matches, including Leigh Centurions' trip to Halifax
Barrow Raiders v Featherstone Rovers (3.00pm)
Barrow Raiders coach Bobbie Goulding is hinting at more changes to his team following their 54-28 defeat against Keighley Cougars.
And the former France coach has challenged his players to complete four out of every five sets if they are to give themselves a chance of staying in the Kingstone Press Championship.
Goulding said: “We can’t drop below 80 per cent, because we’re not good enough. If we can keep it at 80 or above, we’re going to be in with a shout.”
The Raiders currently have one win and one bonus point from their first six league fixtures, while opponents Featherstone Rovers are currently second in the table with four wins and two bonus points from their first half-dozen games.
Featherstone coach John Bastian will be without Jamal Chisholm for the trip to Cumbria, while Gavin Bennion is still another week away from first-team selection.
Bastian said: “We were very good against North Wales Crusaders last week; I thought the attitude and application of the players, from the first minute to the 80th, were of the standard we’re looking for at this club.
“We understand that Bobbie (Goulding) is on a new journey with Barrow and we wish him well, but this is a game we’ll be very focused on.
“They’ll be pretty desperate and we’ll have to be ready for that come Sunday, but we will be.”
Batley Bulldogs v Keighley Cougars (2.00pm)
Batley Bulldogs coach John Kear will have loan pair Kyle Trout and Alex Brown available for Sunday’s Kingstone Press Championship showdown with Keighley Cougars.
The duo were forced to sit out last week’s Tetley’s Challenge Cup clash with Castleford Tigers, but will bolster Kear’s ranks this week as the veteran coach looks to prepare his team in the best way possible.
Kear said: “We did a great deal of tackling (against Castleford), so it’s a matter of nursing us through and reenergizing the lads for Keighley.”
Ben Sagar returns for Keighley, while Elliot Cosgrove, Lewis Graham and Daley Williams could also figure after missing out against Barrow Raiders last week.
Cougars coach Paul March said: “Our attitude wasn’t where it should have been last week; our mentality wasn’t right and defensively we weren’t right.
“We’ve got to defend our own line much better and stop piggy-backing teams down the field. If we don’t improve for this week’s match, we’ll get punished.”
Doncaster v North Wales Crusaders (3.00pm)
Doncaster coach Paul Cooke has been hit by a number of fresh injury concerns ahead of Sunday’s Kingstone Press Championship match with North Wales Crusaders.
Scott Spaven is set for a number of weeks on the sidelines after suffering ankle ligament damage against Hemel Stags, while Matt Carbutt is awaiting the results a scan on a knee problem.
Cooke said: “We’re really doing it tough with regards to players and personnel.
“We seem to be picking up two or three injuries every week at the moment, but the good news is that Matty Wildie comes back into contention this week.”
Cooke added: “North Wales are in a pretty false position. Their three defeats have come against top teams, and in most of their games they’ve been in contention for long periods.
“They’re in a similar position to us 12 months ago. They just need a bit of luck to turn their way, and I’m sure it will – but hopefully not this week.”
Crusaders coach Clive Griffiths claims he will not be boosted by the return of any players this week, and will not have any dual-registration players from Widnes Vikings either.
Griffiths said: “We’re under the pump, but we’ve got to have a reaction from last week.
“Getting a reaction is what everybody’s looking for, from the coaches, players, board and fans, and that’s what we’re focused on.”
Halifax v Leigh Centurions (3.00pm)
Tony Tonks will make his 200th career appearance if selected by Halifax coach Karl Harrison to face league leaders Leigh Centurions.
Halifax are currently third in the Kingstone Press Championship table, four points adrift of Sunday’s visitors to The Shay.
But Harrison believes last week’s Challenge Cup defeat against Widnes Vikings will benefit his team.
Harrison said: “We played well and, while I was disappointed with the final scoreline, it was a tough encounter.
“We’ve got a good bunch and a good team. We need to finish up there in first or second, and that (against Widnes) will set us in good stead.”
Leigh coach Paul Rowley insists Halifax are the division’s standard bearers.
Rowley said: “I’ve said from day one that Halifax have got the best squad in the competition this year.
“We came up with a few basic errors against Rochdale last week, and Halifax would thrive on that if we do it again. If you give them enough possession, they’ll punish you. They like playing good rugby and they’ve got some very dangerous players.”
Rochdale Hornets v Whitehaven (3.00pm)
Gareth Langley and Tony Suffolk return for Rochdale Hornets as coach Ian Talbot tries to secure his side’s second win of the Kingstone Press Championship season.
Talbot could be further boosted by a new loan signing ahead of Sunday’s match, although he is refusing to name his target until the deal is completed.
Talbot said: “Last week was the second time in two weeks that we’ve sat in the changing rooms bitterly disappointed at not winning; we’re not far off.
“As a squad and a club, we’re not interested in the top eight. We’re looking at the league below that, and we want to finish as high as we can in there. Our recent performances suggest there’s no reason why we can’t get a result this weekend.”
Whitehaven coach Dave Woods admits the pressure is on ahead of Sunday’s match.
Woods said: “It’s a must-win game. We need to be beating anyone that’s in and around us on the league table, and we know how important this game is.
“Hopefully we’ll come back fully fresh from the week off and really be ready to go again come Sunday.”
Swinton Lions v Dewsbury Rams (3.00pm)
Winger Freddie Walker looks set for a spell on the sidelines after suffering ankle ligament damage against York City Knights, but Swinton Lions coach Ian Watson is hopeful that both Josh Barlow and Luke Menzies will be fit to face Dewsbury Rams on Sunday.
Chris Atkin is unavailable after being selected for England Students and Anthony Bowman will face a fitness test on an Achilles problem, but Mark Thomas should return.
Watson said: “Dewsbury are doing really well. They’re a good team that’s working hard. Their pack is big and strong, and Shane Grady and Karl Pryce are a strong centre pairing. We’ll have to be ready come Sunday.”
Dewsbury coach Glenn Morrision is reeling from the news that Aaron Brown could miss the rest of the season.
Brown suffered a knee injury against Wigan Warriors last week.
Morrision said: “He’s had a scan and we’re waiting on the results. He’s definitely done his lateral ligaments, but we’re just keeping our fingers crossed that it’s not his ACL, because that would be his season done. The best case scenario is a minimum of eight weeks out.”
Ryan Wright and Kieran Hyde both face fitness tests ahead of a game Morrison is refusing to take for granted.
Morrison said: “Swinton have only had one win, but their losses have been really tight. They’re going to be tough opponents because they keep going for 80 minutes and you don’t know who’s going to be playing.”
Workington Town v Sheffield Eagles (3.00pm)
Workington Town coach Phil Veivers could be boosted by the returns of Jarrad Stack, Graeme Mattinson and Karl Olstrum for Sunday’s match against Sheffield Eagles.
But Elliott Miller, Callum Phillips and Liam McAvoy are all expected to be unavailable.
Town are just two points adrift of a play-off place, and will be desperate to claim a third win of the season to put the pressure on the teams above them.
Veivers said: “Sheffield will be a tough side, but they’re all tough sides in this division. We have to be smarter defensively and more clinical in attack.”
The Eagles are sixth in the league table but have won their last four matches, and racked up 70 points against London Skolars last week.
But Sheffield coach Mark Aston is adamant his side still needs to improve further.
Aston said: “We scored 70 points and looked classy at times, but to let 28 points in isn’t what I’m about. The amount of times we made mistakes after a try is an embarrassment.”
Kingstone Press Championship One
Gloucestershire All Golds v Hunslet Hawks (3.00pm)
Sam Te’o could be in line for his Gloucestershire All Golds debut after the club announced his signing earlier this week.
Te’o joins from Rochdale Hornets and will pose another threat to Hunslet Hawks in a match Hunslet coach Barry Eaton is labeling as his side’s toughest away trip of 2014.
Michael Haley (hamstring) and Liam Mackay (dead leg) are Hunslet’s biggest doubts ahead of Sunday’s trip south.
Coach Barry Eaton said: “Gloucestershire have got two wins from three, and a bonus point against York. It’s our toughest away trip so far this season, without doubt. They’ve got some Championship-quality players in their ranks.”
The Hawks have won their last four matches, but Eaton insists: “We’ve got a bit of momentum, but we want to keep our feet on the ground. There are still lots of areas we can improve on.”
London Skolars v South Wales Scorpions (3.00pm)
Michael Sykes faces a race against time in his battle to be fit for Sunday’s Kingstone Press Championship One match with South Wales Scorpions.
Sykes is London Skolars’ only new injury concern, with coach Joe Mbu admitting: “We’re shaping up well.”
Mbu added: “I’m sure South Wales’s results are not a true reflection of where they are. We know that feeling as well as anyone.
“I’m frustrated in one sense, but at the same time I’m encouraged to know that we’re not far off from where we need to be.
“Once we start fixing those little details, we’ll find ourselves where we want to be.”
Scorpions coach Mike Grady is likely to look for players from Valley Cougars, with seven South Wales players involved with Wales Students further weakening a squad already without Ash Bateman and Shawn Owens.
Grady said: “London are a good side and I’m surprised they’ve not had a win yet, but that shows the strength of the division.”
Oldham v Gateshead Thunder (3.00pm)
Oldham pair Liam Thompson and Adam Files are both ruled out of Sunday’s Kingstone Press Championship One fixture with Gateshead Thunder.
Oldham coach Scott Naylor said: “I’ll probably make changes for Sunday and then do some more adjustments for the Good Friday game.
“Five days between games doesn’t give us a lot of recovery time so it makes sense to get the best I can out of the squad as a whole.”
David Cookson is nearing a return to action after missing six weeks with a groin problem.
Thunder coach Stanley Gene has challenge his players to make improvements in defence, having conceded 93 points in their first three league fixtures of the year.
Gene said: “Defensively I'm not very happy, but we've got to move on quickly. If not, we'll be going out looking for other players to come in.”
York City Knights v Oxford (3.00pm)
York City Knights coach Gary Thornton will check on Iain Morrison (hamstring) and Jason Golden (shoulder) before finalising his team to face Oxford in Sunday’s Kingstone Press Championship One fixture.
The Knights lost 31-28 against Swinton last week in the Tetley’s Challenge Cup, a result Thornton is hopeful will not derail his team’s season.
Thornton said: “It's the first time we've tasted defeat this year and I hope it doesn't hit the lads too hard. The league is our priority.”
Valu Bentley is Oxford’s major doubt as he struggles to overcome a knee problem that is likely to keep him sidelined for another fortnight.
Glenn Osborn is also awaiting the results of a knee scan, but coach Tony Benson is hopeful it is not a serious problem.
Benson said: “We’ve had two weeks off now and that hasn’t helped at all, but we’ve just got to crack on.
“We won the second half of our match against Hunslet, and if we can play to that level then we’ll be pretty competitive with York this weekend. If we don’t play to that level, we’ll be in trouble.”