Rovers coach Sharp: Places still up for grabs

Misi Taulapapa will miss Sunday's game against Wakefield. Picture: Bob Nunn.
Misi Taulapapa will miss Sunday's game against Wakefield. Picture: Bob Nunn.

Coach Jon Sharp says there are still places up for grabs in Featherstone’s line-up to face Halifax in next month’s opening Kingstone Press Championship fixture.

After three straight victories in friendlies against Halifax, Hunslet and York, Featherstone have their toughest pre-season tests so far when they host Super League clubs Wakefield Trinity and Leeds Rhinos before the trip to The Shay on February 5.

Trinity, who recovered from 30-4 down to beat Castleford Tigers 32-30 last weekend, are set to field a strong squad in Sunday’s game at Big Fellas Stadium (3pm) which is followed by the visit of Leeds the following Friday (7.45pm).

“I gather Wakefield are going to put out a strong team so that’s going to be a challenge coming up against Super League opposition who had a really good season last year and have recruited well themselves,” said Sharp.

“I think it’s going to be a different type of game this Sunday to the last two we’ve played where we were free scoring and had lots of opportunities to score points.

“I think it is going to be more of an arm wrestle type game where we are not going to get the space we had against York and Hunslet but it will do us the world of good as well because this is the kind of the match we need in preparation for the opening league fixture at Halifax.

“There are a couple of guys who have cemented their spots in the team and there are a couple of guys who are just feeling their way in at the minute and probably need a bit more time on the field.

“The jigsaw is almost complete. There’s probably just three or four positions we are not quite sure on.

“Over the next two weeks we’ll have an opportunity to see people in the roles we think they can fulfil for us. They will get their chance and if they play well they will take it.

“My job is quite easy at times. The players pick the team not me because if their form is good and they perform well over the next two games then they’ve got opportunities to play.”

Featherstone will again be without Misi Taulapapa against Wakefield but Chris Ulugia and Anthony Thackeray are set to return after missing last Sunday’s 46-4 win against York.

Aaron Lyons is unavailable but fellow trialists Josh Hardcastle and James Kitchen will have another run out.

Said Sharp: “There’s a delay with Misi Taulapapa’s visa which is being processed. He won’t play against Wakefield but Chris Ulugia and Anthony Thackeray will come into the reckoning this week.

“Misi wouldn’t have played anyway in the friendlies we’ve already played.

“He plays wholeheartedly and full of spirit and well above his weight and that can take its toll so I was intending to rest Misi and just use him against Leeds.”

Key playmaker Kyle Briggs came through unscathed against York in his first appearance since last season.

The former Sheffield, Bradford and Doncaster half-back had been struggling to shake off an ankle injury he picked up in Featherstone’s 20-12 defeat at London Broncos at the end of last March.

“Kyle sustained a nasty ankle injury in the game at London and it’s been a problem for him every since,” said Sharp.

“He’s had a cortisone injection in it and he’s been able to rest it and I thought last Sunday he moved as well as I’ve seen him post-London.

“He showed some flashes of brilliance in that game so I’m really pleased for him.

“He seemed to get through the match okay. There were no dramas with his ankle and he looked okay at training on Monday.”