FEATHERSTONE coach Daryl Powell (pictured) expects a tough test against Lezignan in Saturday’s Carnegie Challenge Cup tie at Bigfellas Stadium (6.30pm kick-off).
Three-times Challenge Cup winners Rovers will be favourites to reach the fifth round but Powell will not underestimate Lezignan who have been the top team in the French domestic competition for several seasons.
“It will be a tough game. Lezignan are obviously used to winning and they have had a winning culture over there in the last couple of years so we need to approach the game in the right way. It is an important match for us and we will be putting a lot of focus into it,” said Powell.
“We don’t know a massive amount about them so it will be a bit of a trip into the unknown but we’ve got a DVD to have a look at this week. They are currently on top of their league in France and they’ve some smart players including Nathan Wynn.
“You don’t know how strong Lezignan will be and sometimes videos can tell you a different story so we will be preparing for an outstanding performance from them.
“We’ve come up against Nathan Wynn before when he was with Toulouse and we know he is a quality player.
“It’s an important competition to the club from a financial and a historical point of view so we want to do well. We are trying to build some momentum at the moment and this a part of it.”
Rovers prop Tony Tonks is set to be out for a month. He will have a minor operation today to cure a long-standing knee injury.
Apart from Tonks, Rovers are now getting back to full strength and competition for places is hotting up.
Andy Bostock, Ian Hardman and Greg Worthngton are all likely to be available for Saturday’s game after recovering from injuries.
Powell said: “We are strong in the front row at the moment so we’ll get Tonksy sorted out and then he can be back to his best when he gets his knee cleared out.
“I dropped a few guys down to the bench last week and gave some boys who have been playing from the bench a starting place.
“I was really pleased with Mick Haley and Iain Morrison who stepped up to start in the front row at Hunslet. We’ve got good options and obviously Ross Divorty is a pretty tidy front rower.
“Competition for places is really important and you want people to be performing well every week. Sometimes people who had a starting spot consistently get a little bit stale and that’s the reason why we changed the team around a little bit last week.
“It’s going to be a tough team to get into for players. They need to play well on a weekly basis.
“I have a few names to fit into the 17 for Saturday’s game and obviously not everyone is going to make it.
“Ben Kaye missed out last week and Tom Hemingway started so the ability to put different people on the field is growing. I think as we go through the season it is important to keep everyone on their toes and playing well. With most people fit and a couple of additions we now look like we’ve got a really strong squad.
“I left Ben out against Hunslet. I don’t think he’s been playing well enough and I told him that. He’s got a couple of areas of his game he needs to improve. That happens now and again to players and it’s how they respond that’s pretty important.”
Powell was pleased with the debut of 21-year-old centre or second-rower Nathan Chappell in last Sunday’s 48-12 victory at Hunslet Hawks.
Former Underbank Rangers ARLFC player Chappell had spells with Huddersfield Giants and Castleford Tigers before he signed for Rovers last Friday following a successful trial with the reserves.
Powell said: “Things hadn’t worked out at Cas so Nathan dropped out of the game. We played him in our reserve grade side and it was obvious that he had ability and potential.
“He played played really well against Hunslet and he was a big plus for us at the weekend. He can play back row as well as centre. He gives us some great options and there’s certainly competition for places now in the centres.
“He’s got good ability with the ball, his physicality is great and he’s a tough defender so he is a good addition to the squad.”
Powell was also pleased with Jonny Hepworth’s display at full-back against Hunslet. The former Leeds Rhinos and Castleford Tigers player scored two tries, his first since he joined Rovers from Rotherham Titans RUFC.
“Jonny played well at full-back but I think he’s still adapting to rugby league,” said Powell.
“It’s taking him a while to get back intro rugby league and the way things are done and picking up on our systems and structures. He’s still learning from that point of view but he took a couple of smart tries and his pace and footwork will certainly causes defences trouble.”
Dual-registered Zak Hardaker made his comeback from a broken finger with Leeds Rhinos under 20s in last Friday’s Valvoline Cup game at Castleford Tigers.
Powell said: “Zak has just come back from injury and he hasn’t trained with us during that period.
“I decided I wasn’t going to play him last week. I think our wingers are going well and I wanted to give Jonny Hepworth a run at full-back.
“I think it will be a fluid situation with Zak throughout the year based at where we are at and where Leeds are at.”
Powell was pleased with his side’s first-half display at Hunslet last Sunday as they built a 32-0 half-time lead but he felt the second-half performance could have been better.
He said: “It’s happening to us a bit where we are getting the job done in the first-half and then our standards are slipping a little bit. It’s something we need to keep working on but I thought the first-half was outstanding and we had a fair bit of control in terms of what we were doing.
“We scored straight after half-time which maybe just gave us a feeling as a group that we’d got the job done and after that we slackened off a bit.”
Sunday’s match against Lezignan has been designated as a “Ladies Day.” All women over the age of 16 will be admitted free.
Latest £500 winners in the Rovers lottery are K Bean (K3508), D Pease (F5575), I Potter (M5271), J Tate (H3853), M Horsey (L6810). Travellers Rest meal voucher: D Trundley (W0421).