Powell confident Rovers can start season strongly

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COACH Daryl Powell is confident Featherstone will be ready to hit the ground running when the new season starts in February.

Rovers have been handed a tricky task in the Northern Rail Cup group stages with trips to Halifax and Oldham and home matches against Dewsbury and Batley.

“We are going to have to be right on the money from the start. There are some tough challenges in there, with away games against Halifax and Oldham,” said Powell (pictured).

“Batley are going to be a bit of an unknown with the changes they’ve made and Dewsbury are are always an awkward proposition. It probably couldn’t have been a more difficult group.

“We recognise it’s going to be a challenge but I don’t think any of those teams would have wanted to be in our group to be honest.

“We need to be mindful we need to start the season in a really strong way. We are confident we can get out there and play well right from the off.

“The boys are working exceptionally hard at the moment and we’ve got an intention to start the season strongly. we are not looking to go in undone in any department.”

Rovers are in group A with Batley, Dewsbury, Halifax, Keighley, London Skolars, Oldham, Rochdale, South Wales Scorpions and Toulouse Olympique. The teams in group B are Barrow, Doncaster, Gateshead, Hunslet, Leigh, Sheffield, Swinton, Whitehaven, Workington and York.

The top four teams from each group will go into an open draw for the quarterfinal stage.

The quarter-final and semi-final fixtures will be played on the weekends of June 17 and July 8 respectively. The NRC final is at Blackpool on Sunday, July 29.

Premier Sports, who have taken over coverage from Sky, will broadcast 32 live games this season, including 25 Co-operative Championship fixtures.

Featherstone’s first home Championship game against Leigh on Thursday, March 15 (7.30) will be shown live on Premier Sports.

Champions Rovers kick off their league campaign with a trip to newly-promoted Keighley Cougars four days earlier on Sunday, March 11 (2pm).

Powell said: “We know the Championship is going to be a tough ask this year. We start with Keighley who I think have recruited pretty well and have spent a fair bit of money. They’ll be looking to start off in a positive way.”

Powell believes his side’s four pre-season matches next month against Hunslet Hawks, Hull Kingston Rovers, Bradford Bulls and Leeds Rhinos will be ideal preparation for the new campaign.

“We’ve got some tough pre-season games. Hull KR have got a new coach so you’d expect them to be fielding a strong team,” he said.

“I think Bradford will field a mixed team and I think Leeds will field a really strong line up.

“We need to get the mix of our squads right and make sure everyone gets the right game time.”