COACH Daryl Powell believes part-timers Featherstone can again defy the odds against Super League opponents in tonight’s Carnegie Challenge Cup fifth-round clash against holders Wigan at Bigfellas Stadium (8pm).
After beating Castleford in the last round, Championship winners Rovers face a formidable task against star-studded Wigan but Powell (pictured) is again urging his men to play without fear.
“There’s no doubt it’s going to be an unbelievably tough game but I think there’s always a chance. When you go into games you’ve got to believe you have a chance of winning,” he said.
“For us to win this match, we recognise that every single one of our players has to be outstanding thoughout the game and we have to cause some disruption to Wigan. We can do it - it’s been done before.
“The odds are stacked in Wigan’s favour. They are a full time team and they spend up to their salary cap. They have numerous international players so the odds should be stacked in their favour and we’ll have to work exceptionally hard.
“I thought we did particularly well with our attitude the way we went about the Castleford game but I think we’ll need to start a little bit better than we did against Castleford because that wasn’t great.
“We gave them a six point start and we can’t afford to be doing that against Wigan. We need to start exceptionally well and dominate territory if we can. It’s not an easy thing to do when they’ve got the physical presence they have but that’s something we’ve got to aim for.
“We are hoping our players will get the day off work on Friday so they are not having to work and then turn up on a nightime to play. Hopefully, most of the guys will be able to do that which gives them the best opportunity to play well. Some of our guys have got pretty physical jobs.”
Wigan have won their last five matches.
They trounced Hull 56-12 at the KC Stadium last Sunday after hammering North Wales Crusaders 98-4 in the cup fourth round the previous week when England star Sam Tomkins scored six tries.
And Powell knows the Warriors will be a stiffer challenge than Castleford.
“Obviously, it was a big game for us against Castleford but Wigan have got significant threats all over the field and they are playing exceptionally well,” he said.
“I think they are the form team in the competition at the moment. They are scoring points and not conceding many so they are a huge challenge for us as a part-time team. I think when it comes down to honours they are not going to be far away this year.
“We are aware of what they are about and where they are strong and we know what we need to do to give ourselves an opportunity to challenge them.
“I think we’ve got to play a certain way that puts them under some pressure and build a game for ourselves.
“We have got the players who can certainly play enough to put them under pressure and we are going to need to front up physically in a big way.
“In some ways you look at it and think ‘whoosh’ it’s a fair old challenge for us here against an outstanding team but I’ve played in those games myself in the past and it’s just about going out and challenging yourself against the better players and not having any fear to be honest. We’ve got to go out there and play.
“Wigan are a high quality team filled with high quality players but they are the best challenges of all.
“The best challenges are the biggest opportunities. We have the opportunity to do ourselves a power of good and we need to play with some real spirit.
“There will be some tough times during the game because when you play against a team like Wigan that’s the way it’s going to be and we’ve got to work our way through them and apply pressure.
“We’ll play a certain way which hopefully will make Wigan think a little bit and then we’ll take it from there.
“Wigan are certainly going to put you under pressure with the way that they play.
“You’ve got to able to deal with Sam Tomkins but then again the way that Thomas Leuluai and Brett Finch play out of the line it does make it difficult so you’ve got to deal with lots of one-on-one situations and then you’ve got to be able to deal with the way they play with the width and pace they put on the ball.
“Tomkins is generally on the end of it and we all know about him as a player - he’s a special player - and it’s being able to deal with that threat.”
Tonights game, which is being shown live on Sky TV, is set to attract another big crowd following the 4,165 attendance against Castleford two weeks ago.
“I think Wigan will probably support the game a little bit better than Castleford did,” added Powell.
“I think they’ve asked for more tickets so there should be a couple of thousand Wigan fans over here and hopefully we can retain the same sort of support we had against Castleford and get a few more in.
“It’s good to get new fans into the ground and hopefully we’ll be able to do that.”
The Rovers boss is happy with his side’s form going into the game. In addition to reaching the Challenge Cup fifth round, they have qualified for the Northern Rail Cup quarterfinals and are level on points with Halifax at the top of the Co-operative Championship.
“I think it’s been an excellent start to the season for us,” he said.
“You are never going to be playing at your best consistently at this time of year. You are still working through combinations and you are looking to improve how you play.
“We’ve sort of been up and down but we’ve played some outstanding rugby league.
“The more consistent we get in that regard the more we are going to challenge teams.
“It is a one-off match on Friday and we are confident if we can put some things in place they will give us a good opportunity to challenge Wigan.
“It gives players a great opportunity to challenge themselves in every regard playing against Wigan because they are going to come at you everywhere and they’ve got threats in every single position so every one of our players, as we said against Castleford, are going to have to be playing right at the top of their potential. I know they are all aware of that.”
“We’ll have a good look at Wigan over the remainder of the week and we’ll know what they are going to do and what their individuals are capable of.
“It’s about us matching up and playing as well as we can as individuals and collectively.”
Rovers will be without injured Tangi Ropati and Matty Dale tonight and they will also be checking on the fitness of Greg Worthington (calf) and Jon Grayshon (toe).
Skipper Stuart Dickens returns after being rested for last Sunday’s 26-24 win against Swinton Lions.
Powell said: “We will be checking on Worthington throughout the week to see how he is. He came off and then went back on at the weekend.
“We rested Stuart Dickens against Swinton. He’s had a bit of a knee problem but he’ll be okay and he’ll come back into the side.”
Former Great Britain winger Gareth Raynor is set to retain his place after scoring two tries against Swinton in his comeback game.
Powell said: “I thought Gareth had a pretty ordinary first-half but his second-half was very good.
“He scored a couple of tries and had a hand in another and his overall energy levels were pretty high. He certainly made a big impression on the second-half.”
Wigan will be without winger Pat Richards (knee).