Bussey handed chance against Pia

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YOUNG half-back Jack Bussey will be in Featherstone’s side for Sunday’s Anglo-French Challenge game against Pia at Bigfellas Stadium (3pm).

Bussey (pictured) will be on the bench after impressing in Featherstone’s last two reserves matches, following a two month lay-off with a broken cheekbone.

He sustained the injury against amateurs Hunslet Old Boys in a Challenge Cup tie in March in only his second senior appearance.

“Jack has had a bit of time out and it’s taken him a while to get going again but I think he is now looking really sharp,” said Rovers coach Daryl Powell.

“He is strong, aggressive and he’s quick. He has scored some good tries.”

Rovers are likely to be without skipper Stuart Dickens and Sam Smeaton on Sunday but Tim Spears and Mick Haley will be back in contention.

Smeaton missed Sunday’s match at Hunslet with a rib injury and Dickens took a knock to his side as he scored a try in the 54-10 win at South Leeds Stadium.

Powell said: “I think we’ll give Sam another week to get over his injury and I am likely give Stuart a week to get over his knock.

“We have got plenty of people fit at the moment so there’s no real point risking 70 to 80 per cent fit players when we’ve got people playing well and they are 100 per cent fit.”

Haley and Spears were both left out of the team that played at Hunslet.

Powell said: “We have the luxury at the moment of having most of our players fit so I can take players out of the side and ask them to work on specific elements of their game.

“From there. they hopefully come back in refreshed and really looking forward to a game.

“We’ve seen that with Dom Maloney recently and with James Lockwood at Hunslet last Sunday. I think they’ve both been exceptional when they’ve come back in from having a week out.”

Tangi Ropati could be back in action in July.

The Samoan international centre sustained a broken jaw in last month’s Challenge Cup game game against Castleford.

Powell said: “Ropati has had a bit of an infection in his jaw but he came to Sunday’s game and he seemed okay so I’m hopeful that he’s going to be all right.

“I think he should be back sometime in July but I’m not certain yet and it will depend on how he progresses over the next four or five weeks.

“We’ll see where he is in July and then hopefully get him back on the field.”

Championship winners Featherstone are aiming to be crowned as Europe’s best semi-professional team in Sunday’s game against French table toppers Pia in the inaugural Anglo-French Challenge.

Powell is looking for his side to continue their improvement after winning their last three league matches.

“French teams do tend to throw the ball about and if Pia do play that way we will be in the face of them and force some errors. That is something we have been pretty good at recently,” he said.

“We really defended on the front foot against Hunslet and we want to continue that this week.

“Sunday’s match is a one-off game against opponents we won’t know too much about. We know Pia have got Shad Royston playing for them so they are going to have a mixture of antipodean players and French players.

“We don’t know too much about the strength of their competition. We played Toulouse over the last few years and they’ve been pretty strong so it will interesting to see where the teams are at now.

“French teams have generally got a few South Sea islanders in there who are usually explosive players

“It is going to be a bit of a dip into the unknown for us but I think it’s really important we focus on ourselves and keep building our game with and without the ball.

“We’ll learn about them as we get into the game and see where they are strong.

“When you don’t know much about them they can surprise you a little bit so we are going to need to be really good in picking up their players early on in the game and seeing where their threats are and defending what we see in front of us.

“I think our defence is getting better all the time so it’s a good opportunity for us to grow our game again.”

Powell is delighted with the form of Featherstone’s table-topping reserves who have won all their eight matrches so far in the Reserves Championship.

“I am really pleased with the reserves. I have to say I think Danny Evans, Steve Armitage and the conditioning staff have done a wonderful job,” he said.

“There are a few of the guys in the team - Jack Bussey is going to play this weekend - who I can slot in and I’ve got to make sure I get that right over the remainder of the season”

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