Coach Jon Sharp expects a “massive challenge” in Featherstone’s opening Kingstone Press Championship clash at Halifax on Sunday.
Apart from last season’s leading try scorer Misi Taulapapa, who is still awaiting visa clearance, Rovers are set to be at full strength against top-four rivals Halifax who finished two places below them in the table last season.
Sharp wants his side to repeat the excellent start they made last year.
“We won six out of our first eight games last year and hopefully we can be somewhere near that this time around but we know we’ve got a really big challenge in round one so we need to be ready to go straight away,” he said.
Featherstone’s 24-20 win at The Shay last July helped them snatch fourth spot after Halifax beat them 20-19 at Big Fellas Stadium and 37-0 at the Summer Bash in Blackpool.
“I don’t think there’s anything between us and Halifax,” added Sharp.
“There’s a fag paper between the two teams and we know it’s what happens on the day that counts. The bounce of the ball or a referee’s call could be the deciding factor.
“We know Halifax are a good attacking team and have plenty of skill. They have two really good half-backs who dictate play and we know we are going to have to be patient.
“We understand that for large parts of the game we are going to be defending so we have to be resolute as well.
“We want to start the season well and we know it’s going to be tough - it always is at Halifax.
“We know it’s going to be a massive challenge for us and it’s important we go with the right attitude.
“I think the Wakefield and Leeds pre-season games have been good examples of matches where good attitude was needed otherwise you get beaten heavily. It’s important the players get ready for a really tough encounter on Sunday.”
James Duckworth (ankle) and Luke Briscoe, who was rested, are back in contention for Sunday’s match after missing the final pre-season game against Leeds Rhinos.
Chris Ulugia, Michael Knowles and Richard Moore are set to be fit after picking up knocks against Leeds.
“Everyone is available apart from Taulapapa,” said Sharp who admitted he had some difficult selection decisions to make.
“Some players have been so outstanding in the pre-season games they will clearly have picked themselves while there will be some late decisions on others,” he added.
“I know how we want to play as well as what team I think will be the best to put out for Sunday’s game.
“There will be some disappointed players who have played well but don’t get picked because of the way we think we’d like to play this week.”
Sharp said earlier this week that it was “doubtful” there would be any dual registered Leeds players in Featherstone’s line-up on Sunday.