Featherstone Rovers v Wakefield Trinity: Tough test required by both teams as season looms

Wakefield Trinity will be facing the “next best thing” to a Super League team when they visit Featherstone Rovers tomorrow, their coach Willie Poching reckons.

By Peter Smith
Saturday, 22nd January 2022, 6:00 am

Featherstone finished second to Toulouse Olympique on the Betfred Championship table last year and were beaten by the same team in the Grand Final.

Now coached by Wakefield-born Brian McDermott, Rovers are among the favourites for promotion this year and Poching predicted: “It will be a very good test.”

He said: “We struggled to get any Super League opposition so the next best thing was Featherstone.

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Former Wakefield hooker Matty Wildie in action for Rovers against Leeds last week. Picture by Tony Johnson.

“They are one of the teams that are going to challenge outside of Super League.

“They’ve been one of the top Championship teams for a number of years now and we are really looking forward to the challenge and the test we’ll get.

“I am sure it will be a stern one.”

The visit to Millennium Stadium, Post Office Road, is Trinity’s third and final pre-season game, following the Boxing Day loss at Leeds Rhinos and win away to Rovers’ Championship rivals Halifax last week.

Another of Rovers' former Trinity contingent, Craig Hall, lines up a conversion agianst Leeds. Picture by Tony Johnson.

They will then have almost three weeks to prepare for the visit of Hull in Betfred Super League round one on Sunday, February 13.

“We need a full hit-out and I think that’s reflected in the squad we’ll put out,” Poching added.

“We are going pretty strong - as strong as we can be.

“We have also got a game at Oldham [today] and the rest of the squad will have a hit-out then.”

Craig Kopczak, who signed for Rovers from Trinity, takes a carry against Leeds. Picture by Tony Johnson.

Scrum-half Mason Lino has missed both Trinity’s practice matches so far, because of what Poching described as “one niggle or another” and is sidelined again, so Lee Gaskell will partner Jacob Miller in the halves tomorrow.

Poching said Lino has not yet been ruled out of Super League round one, but admitted it will be “a push” for him to be passed fit in time and described Gaskell’s signing from Huddersfield Giants as a “God-send”.

Wakefield ran in nine tries in their 52-24 victory at the Shay six days ago and their coach is looking for another step up tomorrow.

“That was a big improvement from Boxing Day,” he said of last week’s performance.

“Personnel helped, Jacob Miller being on the park was a big one for us in the first half.

“He was able to give us some direction and understanding, but we have had a pretty big focus since Christmas.

“We have worked a lot on adding some polish and some detail, things we worked on pre-Christmas and it was nice for them to put some of that into action and see some reward for it.

“We could take some heart out of the stuff we’ve been working on.”

Rovers lost 30-22 to Leeds Rhinos last Sunday in McDermott’s first game as coach.

Tomorrow is their only other fixture before their Championship campaign begins away to York City Knights eight days later.

McDermott admitted his team were “rusty” in heavy conditions last week and is looking for them to be “sharper” on attack against Trinity.

Wakefield Trinity: from Jowitt, Johnstone, Lyne, Lineham, Miller, Battye, Hood, Arona, Ashurst, Tanginoa, Pitts, Crowther, Whitbread, Batchelor, Gaskell, Kay, Aydin, Hall, Fifita.

Trinity’s side for today’s game at Oldham (6pm) is: Butterworth, Murphy, Minns, Farrar, Davetanivalu, Abraham, Poching, Shaw, Bowes, O’Donovan, Wood, Mearns, Walker. Subs Mikuhlani, Beevers, Corke, Mann, Marsh, Tetley.

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