COACH John Duffy believes Featherstone Rovers will need to produce an 80-minute performance to beat Betfred Championship rivals Halifax in Sunday’s opener at LD Nutrition Stadium (3pm kick-off).
Rovers won last month’s pre-season game 20-16 but Halifax, who have a dual-registered partnership with Castleford Tigers, were without several key players that day, including captain Scott Murrell and Shane Grady.
Duffy expects Halifax to field a much stronger team this weekend and he is tipping them to again be among Featherstone’s main rivals for a top-four place.
“We’ll have to perform for the full 80 minutes if we are to get a win this Sunday,” said Duffy.
“Obviously, we played Halifax a few weeks ago in a friendly and they had some key personnel missing that day who will play this week so we are expecting a very tough game but we’ll be ready.
“I am sure Halifax will be there or thereabouts challenging for the top-four. They’ve got a quality squad, the same as every year.”
Duffy is pleased with Featherstone’s 100 per cent record in four warm-up matches but is still looking for further improvement and more consistency.
“We’ve done okay in the pre-season games but we just want to be consistent,” he added.
“We know how tough the Championship is going to be so we’ve got to be consistent week in, week out. We can’t have a week off.
“Our first four or five fixtures are massive for us so we need to start well.
“We are not worried about heavy pitches early in the season but we’ve got to cope with them better than we have done.
“We’ve got to be a bit more composed with our play and grind out the wins a bit better than we have.
“We are happy where we are at but to be honest we are frustrated with how we’ve handled certain situations in pre-season matches and that’s come from the squad as well. We just want to get better and be consistent with it.
“We’ve got to get off to a good start. Our first four or five fixtures are against some absolutely quality teams so we’ve got to be ready for that.
“I thought last Friday’s friendly against Leeds Rhinos was really physical and prepared us well for this weekend against Halifax.”
Rovers are targeting clinching a place in the Super 8s play-offs for a third successive season.
Said Duffy: “Obviously, the financial gains are for finishing in the top four but we just want to perform well and get some success this season.
“I think if we are consistent week to week and take each match as it comes we’ll get that.”
The Rovers boss is delighted with the clubb’s off-season recruitment and the squad’s strength in depth.
He added: “We’ve a really good squad this year. We’ve some quality in depth and we are looking forward to seeing how we go. Obviously, we can rotate a bit more this season because of that quality in depth.”
Duffy admits he has selection dilemmas for Sunday’s game.
Apart from long-term casualties Chris Ulugia (shoulder) and Jason Walton (knee), Rovers are set to be at full-strength.
Dual-registered Leeds players could also be available.
“We are pretty healthy at the minute,” said Duffy.
“I’ve got some selection headaches and I’ve got to come up with the right squad to beat Halifax.”
Former England forward Gareth Hock made his Rovers debut from the bench in Friday’s 18-16 win against Leeds Rhinos.
Duffy said: “Gareth just wanted to get through some minutes and he contributed well to the team.”
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