Taulapapa will make Rovers debut against Wildcats

Misi Taulapapa will play against Wakefield on Sunday.
Misi Taulapapa will play against Wakefield on Sunday.
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Coach Jon Sharp wants Featherstone Rovers to make a strong start to Sunday’s pre-season game against Wakefield Trinity Wildcats at Big Fellas Stadium (3pm).

Sharp was highly encouraged by his side’s second-half display in their opening run-out at Castleford Tigers which they lost 42-28 after being 30-0 down at half-time but he is looking for a much better first-half performance this weekend.

“I expect us to play better for a bit longer and not wait to get behind on the scoreboard before attacking the opposition,” he said.

“I want us to get off to a good start and play for a bit more than 40 minutes.

“The first-half at Castleford was not up to what we expect.”

Samoan international centre Misi Taulapapa, signed from Sheffield Eagles, will make his Rovers debut on Sunday after receiving visa clearance earlier this week.

Full-back Ian Hardman returns after missing the Castleford game and forward Tim Spears will have a late fitness test but Rovers will again be without full-back or half-back Danny Craven, who has been signed on a season-long loan from Widnes Vikings.

“Taulapapa will play at centre on Sunday,” added Sharp.

“I think he’s got the pace and the running game and he’s tough. I think he can add a fair amount of punch out on the edges.

“He brings with him a wealth of experience and he knows how to get the job done.

“Hardman will come back in at full-back. He’ll replace young Louis Brown who did ever so well at Castleford.

“We’ll make a late call on Spears. We’ll see how he fares this week .

“It will probably be two weeks before Craven will play. He’ll start contact next week.”

Sharp expects a good test on Sunday against Wakefield who won 14-6 against Leeds Rhinos at Headingley on Boxing Day in their opening pre-season match.

“We are coming up against Super League opposition who have a lot of experience and have an outstanding coach running the show. It will be a really good test for us and it will give us a decent indicator of where we are at,” said Sharp.

“Wakefield have done really well in their previous friendly so is going to be a test for us.

“It was a bit of a scrappy game at Headingley on Boxing Day due to the conditions but to win at Leeds at any time is a tough ask.

“We could have chosen to play lesser lights in pre-season matches and maybe run up 50 points against a League One team and said how well we were doing but that would give us a false dawn.

“We want tough matches that will test us and give us an indication of what we need to do if we want to be a middle eight team.”