FEATHERSTONE coach Daryl Powell will field his strongest available team against Super League champions Leeds Rhinos at Headingley Carnegie tonight (8pm).
Powell expects a tough test for championship winners Rovers against a strong Leeds line-up in a testimonial match for scrum-half Rob Burrow who started his rugby career at amateur club Featherstone Lions.
“Everybody we’ve got available will be playing. It’s going to be a pretty big challenge for us,” said former Leeds player and coach Powell.
“Leeds are going to have their best team out and we are wanting to go there and do ourselves justice. It will give us a really good look at where our boys are in the British game. If we can go and challenge Leeds, it will be magnificent for us.
“It will certainly show us where we are at as a group and challenge our mentality, toughness and ability to play the game.
“I’m looking for us to put Leeds under some pressure and then we’ll take it from there. We know it’s going to be a difficult game but I think it will be exciting for all our players to play at Headingley. It’s something quite a lot of them will not have done. It should be a really great night for us to go and challenge ourselves as a team and as a group.
“We are looking forward to playing in Rob Burrow’s testimonial. He’s had part of his playing life spent in Featherstone. It should be a good night for Rob and for both clubs.
“Headingley has obviously played a big part in my life as a player and a coach. It’s a special place to play rugby and it’s a special place to work so hopefully I’m going to enjoy what goes on both on and off the field.”
England winger Ryan Hall, who has signed a new five-year contract with the Rhinos, is set to make his first appearance of pre-season in tonight’s game.
He said: “We are in great shape at the moment having come back from our pre-season camp in Cyprus. The England lads only came back in officially just after Christmas so we just getting into our stride.
“We are looking forward to the game on Friday. It should be a great night for Rob and he absolutely deserves it. He was a player I looked up to when I first came into the side and he has already achieved so much in his career.”
Rovers utility player Jonny Hepworth is unlikely to play tonight against his old friend Burrow. The pair were team-mates in the Leeds Academy side.
Hepworth has suffered a reaction in training during his recovery from knee surgery.
Powell said: “Jonny was really looking forward to taking some part in the game but I don’t think that’s going to be the case now.
“We just need to monitor him and keep our eye on him and see where he’s at. We are not going to rush him - we just need to gauge it. I think it’s unlikely he’ll play against Leeds - I think that’s going to be too early.”
Powell will check on Matty Dale (deadleg). He will also decide whether to give new signing Dominic Maloney a run out.
Ex-Halifax prop Maloney has arrived back from Australia and trained with his new team-mates for the first time on Tuesday evening.
Powell said: “I need to make a decision on whether I give Dominic Maloney any game time. I will have a look at him and see how it goes.”
Anthony England, a close-season signing from Dewsbury Rams, underwent a groin operation on Tuesday. He is likely to be back in action in three to four weeks.
Scrum-half Liam Finn will start his comeback in tomorrow’s match after groin surgery.
Finn was set to play in last Sunday’s home game against Bradford Bulls which was postponed because of a frozen pitch.
Sunday’s fixture was part of the deal that saw Bradford sign half-back Kyle Briggs from Featherstone 12 months ago.
Powell was disappointed the game was called off.
He said: “It was disappointing. Obviously, it is important financially at this time of year for clubs to be playing pre-season games and it’s a pretty important as well from a performance point of view.
“I don’t know whether we are in a colder spot than some other places where teams were able to play but the pitch was certainly hard.
“The game was part of the deal for Kyle Briggs and it’s now likely to be played next year.
“I don’t think we are going to get a first-team game against Bradford this year looking at their programme.”
Rovers will host Hull FC in a newly-arranged pre-season match at Bigfellas Stadium next Thursday evening (January 26).
Powell said: “We are going to have some first-team players in our side and it will be a reasonably strong team. Hull will be bringing mainly an under 20s side.
“Hopefully, we are also going to have quite a few under 23 games through February.”
Hospitality packages will be available at Featherstone’s first competitive home match of the season against Dewsbury Rams in the Northern Rail Cup group stages at Bigfellas Stadium on Sunday, February 19.
The packages start from £25 per person for season ticket holders and life members and £40 for non-season ticket holders. It includes a three-course meal before the kick-off.
To book a place or to discuss sponsorship opportunities that are still available for the match contact Rovers commercial manager Paul Taylor on 01977-702386 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Latest £500 Rovers lottery winners are D Stuart (J5165), H Boynton (I4606), P Vaughan (L1569), A Kaye (E5704), T Kerins (A4845). £5 consolation prizes: K Teanby (V4435), Mrs Walker (V2621), R Jeffery (V4843), D Bell (V0831).
Tickets for tonight’s Leeds Rhinos-Featherstone Rovers match at Headingley cost £15 for adults, £10 for concessions and £5 for juniors which is for all areas of the ground, whether seating or standing. Fans can pay on the night at the turnstiles.