Rovers coach looks for big improvement

Australian Sam Irwin is set to return for Sunday's game at Pontefract RUFC. Picture: Tony Johnson.
Australian Sam Irwin is set to return for Sunday's game at Pontefract RUFC. Picture: Tony Johnson.

Andy Hay wants a big improvement in attitude from Featherstone’s players in Sunday’s friendly against York City Knights at Pontefract RUFC (2pm kick-off).

The Rovers boss had intended giving fringe players a run-out against Championship One side York but now plans to field a similar line-up to the one that lost 26-6 at Batley Bulldogs last weekend.

Hay was “very disappointed” with his side’s show in their third pre-season outing at fellow Championship outfit Batley after promising displays against Castleford Tigers and Wakefield Wildcats.

“It’s early in the year but it’s just not what we are about this season and I thought we turned up with the wrong attitude,” said Hay.

“I thought the application from the majority of the team was poor.

“I think some of the guys thought we’ve played a couple of Super League teams and done not bad and we’ll go to Batley and we’ll be all right and we can just turn up.

“That doesn’t happen and luckily it was a pre-season match we found that out in.

“We had a big meeting on Monday and looked at a video of the game and some structure stuff but a lot of it boils down to how we turn up to play.

“We started off well at Batley. In the first 15 minutes we were dominant in every area and we were playing up the hill as well but then we started making errors. We didn’t finish off our sets very well and we gave away penalties.

“We didn’t really defend our goalline very well in the first-half which caused us a lot of problems.

“The discipline was poor all round and that was out of character for some players.

“I had wanted to throw in a couple of different players against York.

“We’ve had quite a number of players who have been training all pre-season with us who haven’t had a chance to play yet but what we dished up at Batley has probably changed my mind,

“I think we are going to have to go with a very similar team and establish patterns and give most of those players a chance to make up for last Sunday.

“We haven’t got many games left leading into the season and this will probably be our last trial match before the league kicks off. Some of these guys need to put their hand up and put last Sunday’s performance behind them.

“It hasn’t helped some of the fringe players get a game after they’ve been training for eight or nine weeks but some of the guys who played last Sunday need to go round again and get that game out of their heads.”

One change this weekend could be the inclusion of Australian three-quarter Jy Hitchcox who will be handed his debut if he arrives in time and is not suffering from jet lag.

Hitchcox, signed from NRL side West Tigers on a two-year contract, could arrive at Featherstone before this weekend.

The club are also still awaiting the arrival of other Australian signings Ryan Verlinden and Reni Maitua.

Hay added: “We are still waiting on Ryan’s passport and Reni’s situation is a little bit more complicated than Jy’s so we are just seeking some advice on that.”

Featherstone’s other Aussie recruit Sam Irwin is set to play this weekend after missing the Batley game.

Matt Nicholson may also play but Matt James is again doubtful.

“Sam Irwin should be back,” added Hay.

“Matt James might still be struggling this weekend with a groin injury. We are just being cautious with him.

“Matt Nicholson pulled out of training at the back end of last week because he just wasn’t right. It’s not fair on him to put him in a game if he’s not fully fit after such a lengthy injury. He was back in training on Monday. We’ll give him a run out in training this week and hopefully he will feature this Sunday.”