Coach John Bastian says Featherstone are prepared for a tough test in tomorrow’s (Sunday) pre-season clash against Wakefield Wildcats at Big Fellas Stadium (3pm).
Rovers beat Championship One outfit Hunslet Hawks 26-0 in their first run-out on New Year’s Day but Bastian knows Super Leaguers Wakefield will provide a sterner challenge.
“Wakefield are a Super League team and we have to respect that. They will test us a lot more than Hunslet and I’m sure the players are very mindful of that,” he said.
“It’s a great opportunity for our boys to test themselves against Super League opposition and it will give us a better judgement of where we are at as well.
“It’s a local derby and hopefully that will bring the best out of both teams so the spectators will get a good game of rugby league. Certainly, we won’t be going through the motions. We want to test ourselves and I’m sure Wakefield same as.
“It’s important our pre-season games should all be competitive and I’m sure this will probably be more so with it being a local derby.
“All these games lead to the first league match at Dewsbury Rams and that is what we are building towards.”
Bastian will be looking for another strong defensive performance after his side kept Hunslet scoreless in his first match in charge.
“If we can continue how we defended against Hunslet that will be a real positive,” he added.
“I thought our defensive systems were very good and the effort and energy from the boys was excellent especially considering we had to defend three back to back sets at the end of a long game in horrendous conditions. I was really pleased with the energy and effort they put in.
“Certainly, we need to improve in some areas. We want to control the ball better. Even though the conditions were difficult against Hunslet, I think we can be better in that area. We need to be a little bit smarter in areas offensively with the ball.
“We have to adapt to the conditions as well. It’s certainly four seasons rugby at the moment and we have to accept some of that but hopefully the conditions aren’t as poor as those against Hunslet and we can try to play a bit more expansive football.”
Bastian was pleased with the way the new half-back pairing of Gareth Moore and Jack Bussey shaped up against Hunslet.
“I think that partnership will get stronger,” he said.
“They are both very young, they are both very enthusiastic and they have both had a very good pre-season. They have started to combine well together and I expect them to get stronger together.”
Bastian will again field a 22-man squad on Sunday like he did against Hunslet.
Greg Worthington and Andy Ellis are both expected to be fit after being injured in the Hawks game.
“Andy Ellis had a small cut on his head so he’s had that dealt with. He’s had a couple of stitches and he’s fine. There are no serious complications with the head knock either.
“I expect Greg Worthington to be fully fit for Sunday as well. He got a bang on his quad - a little bit of a dead leg - but Matty Crowther (physiotherapist) was on top of that straight away and he should be fine for the weekend.
“We will be going with 22 again this Sunday they will all get some football time. The squad that won’t be too dissimilar to the one we had out against Hunslet.
“There will be a couple of changes but other than that it will be a very similar squad to the Hawks game.”
Kyle Briggs, who is close to full fitness after major knee surgery, will not play on Sunday.
Bastian said: “It’s too early for Kyle as the moment. We are just holding back on him a little bit.
“He’s had a bit of a niggle with his knee that we are looking at the moment and hopefully I’ll know a bit more about that in the near future.”
Featherstone’s squad for tomorrow’s game is:
Ian Hardman, Will Sharp, Greg Worthington, Jamie Cording, Jamel Chisholm, Jack Bussey, Gareth Moore, Steve Crossley, Andy Ellis, Keegan Hirst, James Lockwood, Tim Spears (C), Matty James, George Flanagan, Matty Nicholson, Matty Dale, Liam Walmsley, Colton Roache, Gavin Bennion, James Mendeika, Josh Sunley, Jack Ormondroyd.
Like Featherstone, Wakefield will be playing their second pre-season game. They drew 18-18 with Leeds at Headingley on Boxing Day.
Wildcats coach Richard Agar said: “It’ll be a good test for us against a team that has been one of the top sides in the Championship for a few years now. It’s a local derby so that always adds a bit extra for the crowd and I’m sure there’ll be a good turnout on Sunday.
“We’ll be sending our strongest possible team. We’ve got a few missing through injury and we’re still waiting for our three overseas guys to arrive but it’ll be good to get another hit-out following on from Boxing Day to continue our preparations for the start of the new season.”
Wakefield’s provisional squad for Sunday is:
Richard Mathers, Peter Fox, Dean Collis, Reece Lyne, Tom Johnstone, Paul Sykes, Matty Wildie, Richard Moore, Paul McShane, Taulima Tautai, Danny Kirmond (captain), Lucas Walshaw, Danny Washbrook, Bobby Goulding, Kyle Trout, Chris Annakin, Daniel Smith, Jordan Crowther, Ben Shulver, Max Jowitt.
Admission at the gate is £12 adults, £6 concessions and £4 juniors.
Meanwhile, pie manufacturer Pukka Pies has agreed a two year sponsorship agreement with Rovers. The sponsorship deal will see Pukka Pies in association with supplier Eric Twigg Foods become the sole pie supplier at the Big Fellas Stadium.
Rovers commercial manager Paul Taylor said: “We are always keen to establish partnership’s with well-respected brands and Pukka Pies is no different so this is great news for the club and our supporters.
“Quality English pies are a vital part of the match day experience and we are delighted to welcome Pukka Pies to Featherstone Rovers and rugby league.”
To celebrate the new partnership, Pukka Pies are match sponsors of Featherstone’s game against Wakefield tomorrow.