SAMOAN international Tangi Ropati will make his Featherstone Rovers debut in tomorrow’s (Sunday) pre-season match against Hull Kingston Rovers at Bigfellas Stadium (3pm).
The 27-year-old former Widnes Vikings and Sheffield Eagles player (pictured) arrived in England last week after obtaining his work visa and quickly began training with his new team-mates.
He was introduced to the crowd during last Sunday’s 24-0 victory against Hunslet Hawks, along with Featherstone’s other new signing Gareth Raynor, who is set to make his debut in the pre-season game against one of his former clubs Bradford Bulls at Bigfellas Stadium on Sunday, January 15.
Featherstone coach Daryl Powell said: “Tangi can play centre, wing or full-back so I’ll give him an opportunity to play in all those positions over the pre-season period.”
Ropati will feature in a strong Featherstone line-up against Hull KR.
Powell added: “We will field a strong team and there will be some opportunities for young players again. Obviously, there will also be quite a lot of our front line players out there.
“We are looking forward to it. I think the preparations are going outstandingly well at the moment and this will just be a further test of where we are at. We’ll need to front up defensively and continue what we did against Hunslet.
“I thought we were superb defensively against Hunslet. I was really pleased with that element of our performance.
“To keep opponents at zero so early in the season is outstanding. I thought all the elements we have worked on throughout the pre-season we were top quality.
“The signs are very promising that we are going to be a very tough team to play against when we are defending.”
Rovers will again be without Liam Finn, Jonny Hepworth, Nathan Chappell and Tom Hemmingway tomorrow.
Matty Dale has also been ruled out after limping off with a dead leg in the first-half against Hunslet. He was Featherstone’s only casualty in last weekend’s game.
Finn, Hepworth and Chappell are all recovering from surgery and Hemmingway had an operation on Wednesday on a troublesome groin injury.
Powell said: “Tom Hemmingway will be out for about four weeks but hopefully after that he’ll be fine and he’ll be able to get stuck into it.
Featherstone’s squad for tomorrow’s game is:
Ian Hardman, Tom Carr, Sam Smeaton, Tom Worthington, Tangi Ropati, Tommy Saxton, Danny Grimshaw, Nathan Freer, Anthony England, Ben Kaye, Andy Kain, Stuart Dickens, Mick Haley, James Lockwood, Jon Grayshon, Tim Spears, Andy Bostock, Jack Ormondroyd, Dave Nurse, Jack Bussey, Lewis Jones, Kyran Johnson, Matty Brook.
Hull KR’s squad is:
Sam Latus, Nick Johnson, Liam Slater, David Scott, Kristian Bell, Mathew Beharrell, Joel Clinton, Keal Carlile, James Green, Aaron Ollett, George Griffin, David Lemon, Liam Walker, Jason Netherton, Scott Wheeldon, Curtis Pullen, Richard Beaumont, James Beaumont, Lloyd Ofori, Graeme Horne, Tyla Hepi.
Powell was pleased with substitute hooker Dave Nurse’s performance against Hunslet and he also thought winger Tom Carr played well.
Nurse followed an outstanding display in the Boxing Day match against Sharlston Rovers with another eye-catching show and 20-year-old winger Carr did well following his promotion to the first-team squad.
Said Powell: “I was pleased with the young kids - I thought they did a really good job, particularly Dave Nurse. His ability to get out at the defensive line and cause them trouble was excellent. I was really pleased with him and I thought he defended pretty strongly as well.
“Tom Carr has been there or thereabouts in terms of the way he has been playing in the under 23s for the last couple of years. Tom got an opportunity at the weekend and acquitted himself well and set a marker down.”
Carr will be vying for a first-team place with 33-year-old former Great Britain winger Raynor who had his first training session with Rovers on Tuesday evening.
The former Leeds, Hull, Crusaders and Bradford player Raynor has signed a 12-month deal with Featherstone, the club he supported as a boy.
Powell said: “Gareth will play against Bradford, that’s the plan.
“I’m going to give him a week or so to get familiar with what we do. We’ll have a look at him and see how he is physically. He looks in good shape but obviously we’ll analyse him throughout the pre-season period. He looks okay. He’s been training at home and been working pretty hard.”
Powell explained that Raynor had been signed after the player contacted him.
He said: “Gareth got in touch with me through Stuart Dickens. He then contacted me again a bit further down the track and it built up from there. I met him a couple of times to talk about motivations and things like that.
“He’s been a Featherstone fan most of his life and his family support Featherstone. I think he’s got a pretty strong passion to play for the club which is what we want all our players to have. It fits in pretty neatly with the profile we want of players.
“I think he is a great signing. He’s going to add to the squad in terms of competition, depth and quality.
“He can score tries and he can get your game going quickly coming out of backfield. I think he will be a key player for us across the season.
“It increases competition for places for the wing spots and Gareth is going to need to play well.
“Everyone has got to be playing well to stay in the team because it’s pretty competitive.
“We’ve got strong competition for places in every position there’s no doubt about that and my job is going to be a pretty difficult one at times this year to select the side.
“From the way it’s shaping up, we’ve got good players in every single position who are capable of performing at the highest level.”
Admission prices for Featherstone’s pre-season games against Hull KR this Sunday and against Bradford Bulls the following Sunday are £10 adults, £5 OAPs/students and £2 juniors.