Nicholson set to make Rovers return

Rovers prop Matt Nicholson is helped from the field with the serious knee injury that forced him to miss the entire 2014 season. Picture: Bob Nunn.
Rovers prop Matt Nicholson is helped from the field with the serious knee injury that forced him to miss the entire 2014 season. Picture: Bob Nunn.

Prop Matt Nicholson could make his Featherstone Rovers comeback in Sunday’s friendly at Batley Bulldogs.

Nicholson, signed from York City Knights on a two-year contract in 2013, has not yet played a competitive game for Rovers.

He missed the entire 2014 campaign after he sustained a serious knee ligament injury in a pre-season match against Halifax 12 months ago.

“Matt is in full training this week and hopefully he will feature on Sunday,” said Rovers coach Andy Hay.

“We’ll probably see how he is after Thursday night and see if he’s come through the full week okay. He did some running and defence stuff last week and we are hoping he’ll be ready to play.”

Hay is now looking to field a settled team in the build up to their opening Kingstone Press Championship match against Hunslet Hawks on Sunday, February 15.

“There might be a couple of changes but not many,” he added.

“I want to go with a pretty solid side and try to get a settled team out there this week. I might go to 18 players.

“It will be a good test against a team who are in our division. It will be about the players putting their hands up again. The opportunities are there to get in the 17 for the first league match and that’s what these trial games are for.

“Players should be hitting their stride and pushing themselves for selection for the first game.

“Defensively we have a bit of stuff to work on and in attack we’ve got to tighten things up and make sure everyone knows what they are doing and knows their role.

“We did a bit of a video session on Monday night and we’ll probably do a bit more during the week.

“We’ll be looking at timing and execution of plays. We’ve a lot of different players getting to know each and how they play. We’ll get there and I don’t think we are far off.”

Hay was pleased with his side’s second-half display in last Sunday’s 34-20 defeat at Wakefield following the opening pre-season game at Castleford which Rovers lost 18-0.

He is now looking for further improvement in Sunday’s game at the Fox’s Biscuits Stadium, Mount Pleasant (3pm kick-off)).

Admission is £10 adults, £5 concessions and £2 juniors .

“I was really pleased with the improvement at Wakefield. I thought we were a lot better and there’s more to come yet,” said Hay.

“We struggled a bit in the first-half with the conditions. I thought Wakefield’s early try spooked us and put us off our game a little. We didn’t get over the half way line very often.

“We got the players back together at half-time and regrouped and I thought we showed some really good stuff in the second-half.

“It was a good run out for us and I thought we again showed promising signs. Wakefield had a top side out for the first 60 minutes.

“We had some better structure in attack. We are getting into the right areas and putting on the right plays but some of the execution and timing was still a little bit off so they are things to work on.

“We are looking to improve again this Sunday at Batley.”

Hay was pleased with the debut of 33-year-old former Warrington Wolves prop Paul Wood at Wakefield.

“Paul Wood has fitted in very well. He’s is a tough carrier of the ball and has a good off-load game,” he added.

“He popped out a couple of off-loads along with a few others and it’s added another dimension to our game.

“He’s a good leader in the group and just to have him in the changing room is a big plus for the players.”

“He is an inspirational player who just does it in the games and leads from the front and leads by example.”

Rovers are still awaiting the arrival of Australian signings Jy Hitchcox, Reni Maitua and Ryan Verlinden.

Hay added: “Jy has got his approval from the RFL so his visa application can now be made.

“He has been sent all the forms and paperwork so hopefully he’s now on with that. We got through the major hurdles and he’s just got to apply for it now at his end.

“Reni is in front with his process so we should have some news on that shortly and Ryan is still waiting for his passport.”