Smeaton stakes claim for number 22 shirt

ROOKIE three-quarter Sam Smeaton is in pole position to become the final piece in Featherstone's first-team jig-saw.

Required under new rules to name a 25-man squad at the start of the season, boss Daryl Powell gave out only 24 shirts.

The vacant number 22 jersey was an incentive for a squad player to step up and centre Smeaton, who joined the club from amateur neighbours Featherstone Lions, has emerged as the likely candidate after impressing Powell in pre-season and in two senior games against Doncaster Dragons.

"I've been really impressed with Sam," Powell said yesterday. "He's done a good job in the two games he's played and I've been impressed with his work-rate and attitude. He's still got a lot to learn but the will and effort is there. Physically he's handled the step-up well and that's been great because it's in the back-line we're a little bit short. For him to come through is ideal at this stage.

"I'll be making a decision in the next month. There are a couple of others in there - Matty Handforth went well in the reserve team at the weekend - but Sam is a front-runner."

Smeaton, whose dad Tony played professionally for Doncaster, played in Lions' Summer Conference Grand Final victory over Bramley at Headingley in 2007.

Powell is forced into late calls for Sunday's home match with Dewsbury.

Rovers emerged injury-free from the win at Doncaster but with Leigh set to visit Post Office Road last night (Wednesday) in a re-scheduled NRC tie, the Feathersone boss is not expected to finalise this weekend's side until Friday at the earliest.

Captain Stuart Dickens, Matty Dale, Tim Spears and fit-again Tony Tonks were all recalled for last night's game in an attempt to add steel and experience to Rovers' pack.

Steve Dooler, Gareth Swift and Scott Wilson, missed the trip to Doncaster and were also due to sit out last night, but all three are expected to face Dewsbury on Sunday.

Said Powell: "It's difficult to play three games in a week but that's the challenge at times in rugby league and you've just got to get on with it. Hopefully, we'll recover well enough to put out a strong team on Sunday. We've got good strength in depth in the forwards, where a lot of the workload is."

Rovers Supporters Club are taking bookings for the game at Workington on March 1 in the portable cabin before Sunday's match. Membership for the new season is also being taken.