Thursday August 8
Kingstone Press Championship
Swinton Lions v York City Knights
Jordan Burke could be included in the Swinton Lions squad for today’s crucial relegation battle with York City Knights – but Tyrone McCarthy is unlikely to play.
The Lions are 13thin the Kingstone Press Championship table and have the same number of points as 12th-placed York.
Swinton coach Gary Chambers said: “This is a massive game for us. There are no ifs or buts anymore; it’s about who’s more desperate on the day and who wants it most.
“We’ve shown we can compete with the top teams, and York have done the same as well.
“Now it’s down to desperation, but also smartness and who can do the little things when they’re needed.”
York are set to be boosted by the return of Simon Brown and Matty Nicholson, but James Ford remains sidelined.
Knights coach Gary Thornton said: “We need to get a win as quickly as we can. “These next two games are ‘must-win’. We’re getting perilously close now.”
Friday August 9
Kingstone Press Championship
Sheffield Eagles v Leigh Centurions (7.30pm)
Scott Turner, Peter Green, Matt Garside and James Davey could all come into Mark Aston’s Sheffield side as the Eagles gun for revenge after last month’s Northern Rail Cup final defeat.
The quartet were all rested for last week’s 42-16 win at York City Knights, but coach Aston could recall all four as he aims to maintain Sheffield’s position at the top of the Kingstone Press Championship.
Aston said: “We’ve got a bit of hunger to turn the negative of a loss in a final into a positive, which is another win at home.”
Leigh coach Paul Rowley is refusing to get carried away, despite his side’s recent climb into third place.
Rowley said: “We’ve had some good wins, but we’re just taking it one game at a time.
“We’re not going to make any rash statements. There are still teams ahead of us and they have to be favourites for the silverware.”
Sunday August 11
Batley Bulldogs v Barrow Raiders (2.00pm)
Paul Mennell has an outside chance of featuring in the Batley Bulldogs side to face Barrow Raiders on Sunday.
But Bulldogs coach John Kear will definitely be boosted by the return of Greg Johnson and Ben Black as they look to build on last week’s 46-6 win at Keighley Cougars.
Kear said: “That result has done us the world of good and has stopped people questioning us.
“We were always confident and we always believed in each other, and that belief has been unwavering.
“Now we’ve got four games in which to build some momentum for the play-offs.”
However, Kear is aware of Barrow’s quality.
“They played really well against Halifax,” he said. “They didn’t scratch a win out. They were the best team, there’s no doubt about that.
“They played very well and we know there’s a threat in Haggerty and Harrison, but I was also very impressed with their half-backs and hooker.”
Raiders assistant coach Phil Atkinson is hoping for another repeat of last week’s display.
“That was our best display of the season,” he said.
Featherstone Rovers v Dewsbury Rams (3.00pm)
Ian Hardman could come into the reckoning for Featherstone Rovers as he battles to overcome an ankle problem.
Rovers are three points behind league leaders Sheffield Eagles with only five games to go until the play-offs begin.
But confident Featherstone have won five out of their last six league fixtures, including a 62-6 away win at Workington Town last week.
Dewsbury Rams coach Glenn Morrison expects to be without Adam O’Brien (shoulder) as he attempts to devise a game-plan to counter Rovers’ threats.
Morrison said: “They’re a tough side. They’re one of the top teams in the division, but they’ve had a couple of off days and hopefully we can catch them on one of those.”
Rams won 20-16 against Hunslet Hawks last week with a performance that has given Morrison plenty of optimism.
He said: “We played well and we created a lot of opportunities. The score-line didn’t show how well we played.
“We’ve needed to work better in attack and create opportunities, and we did that on the weekend. Against Featherstone we’ll have to take every chance we get, because you don’t get that many against top sides.”
Halifax v Doncaster (3.00pm)
Anthony Thackeray and Callum Casey could both come into contention as Halifax coach Karl Harrison attempts to avoid a third successive defeat.
Halifax have lost to Leigh Centurions and Barrow Raiders in their last two outings, and are now fourth in the Kingstone Press Championship.
Harrison said: “Nobody’s thrown the towel in, but we’re going through a tough spell.”
He added: “All we can do is patch a few bodies up, re-address a few things and try and get a winning formula in time for the play offs.”
Confident Doncaster are aiming for a fifth straight league win when they travel to the Shay, although Stuart Sanderson is unavailable for the visitors.
Tony Miller’s men have climbed into the play-off places and currently sit eighth in the table.
Hunslet Hawks v Workington Town (3.00pm)
Hunslet Hawks coach Barry Eaton could name an unchanged side to face Workington Town as Hunslet battle to save their place in the Kingstone Press Championship.
Eaton said: “We’ve got four games to go and we’re still fighting.
“We need to win a couple of games and we’ve got to believe we can. We’re picking bonus points up, so we’re not far away.”
He added: “We know this is a winnable game and we know we’re capable of winning the game. It’s just about turning those close defeats into a win.”
Town coach Gary Charlton admits he is likely to make changes to his side as the prepare for four games in 12 days.
Charlton said: “We’ll be pretty similar to last week, but we’ve also got to manage our boys. Some will be rested and told to look forward to the Keighley game. They might not like that, but it’s in their best interest.”
He added: “We need three points and we need to challenge ourselves to get up into the top eight.
“But we know it’s going to be tough. Hunslet will throw everything at us.
“They’re not going to lie down and go away, they’ll fight for everything. While they’ve still got that light at the end of the tunnel they won’t give in.”
Whitehaven v Keighley Cougars (3.00pm)
Whitehaven coach Dave Woods is demanding a major improvement after last week’s 46-4 defeat at Doncaster.
Woods said: “I wasn’t happy at all. We looked as though we were resting on our laurels, and that simply wasn’t good enough.”
He added: “We’ve got to work hard this week to right the wrongs. We know we can play better.”
James Haley is expected to miss out for Keighley Cougars, although he is believed to be closing in on a return to action following his dislocated shoulder.
Cougars coach Paul March is not giving up hope of making this year’s Kingstone Press Championship play-offs, despite last week’s heavy defeat against Batley.
March said: “We did too much defending in the first half.
“We’ve got to be honest. We can still make the play-offs, but we’ve got to play a lot better than we did against Batley.
“We’re all professional and we’ll come back working harder and harder.”
Kingstone Press Championship One
North Wales Crusaders v Hemel Stags (2.00pm)
North Wales Crusaders coach Clive Griffiths is calling on his squad to make the most of home advantage as they prepare for their final four league games of the year.
Griffiths’ side will be promoted if they win all four, with Sunday’s match against Hemel Stags being the first of three at home.
Griffiths said: “It wasn’t pretty at times (against Gateshead last week), but we’ve now got three of our last four games at home.”
Crusaders are without Stuart Reardon (Achilles), while Hemel coach Troy Perkins expects to be without prop Dan Ljazouli (knee).
Perkins said: “A couple of weeks ago we recognised that we’d put ourselves in a good position for a top four finish and we’re aiming for that, but we’ve got three really tough games ahead.
“If we don’t play with the intensity needed then there’s every chance of results going against us. We’ve got to be on the ball and not take anything for granted.
“Crusaders are probably the best supported team at home. I’m sure Clive will have them on the right track as they look to claw back first position. There’s a lot at stake for both teams.”
Oldham v Gloucestershire All Golds (3.00pm)
Oldham coach Scott Naylor is aiming for a ninth successive win to keep his side at least five points clear at the top of the Kingstone Press Championship One table.
Jon Ford (dislocated elbow) will miss the rest of the season, forcing Naylor into making at least one change from the side that beat London Skolars last week.
Tom Whitehead and David Cookson could both come into contention as Naylor prepares for his side’s penultimate league fixture of the season.
And Naylor has called on Oldham fans to again show their support for a team still chasing automatic promotion.
Naylor said: “We knew we had to play a brand of rugby people would want to watch, and it looks like a lot of fans are starting to come back.
“There are definite signs that the Oldham public is responding to what we’re doing. It’s just a pity we have only one home game left.”
Gloucestershire coach Brad Hepi will be hoping to narrow the gap on eighth-placed Gateshead Thunder by claiming the All Golds’ third win of the season.
Rochdale Hornets v Gateshead Thunder (3.00pm)
Rochdale Hornets coach Ian Talbot will give late fitness tests to Chris Hough and ‘a couple of others’ ahead of Sunday’s clash with Gateshead Thunder.
Dave Llewellyn is definitely ruled out as Rochdale look to back up last week’s impressive win over South Wales Scorpions.
Talbout said: “We’ll have some changes to make, but hopefully not too many because we’re a settled team now.”
He added: “Gateshead have come good in recent weeks. They’re hitting form at the right end of the season and we’ll be reading nothing into our two previous games against them this year.
“They’re a big, strong outfit and Ricky Hough really gives them a bit of leadership in and around the ruck.”
Confident Gateshead arrive with last week’s narrow defeat against North Wales being their only loss in their last three games.
Thunder coach Kevin Neighbour said: “We’ve turned a massive corner over the last six to eight weeks.”
South Wales Scorpions v London Skolars (3.00pm)
David James and Andy Powell are both in contention for the South Wales Scorpions, who need at least a point to maintain their slim play-off hopes.
South Wales coach Dave Clark said: “With Oxford having a week off we know that a win will really put us back in the mix and take things right up until the last game of the season.
“Anything else and our season is basically over.”
Skolars coach Joe Mbu could name an unchanged side from last week’s 44-24 defeat against Oldham.
Mbu said: “We’ve been pretty fortunate this year in terms of injuries.
“Now we’re just looking to get more consistency in our performance and looking forward to the play-offs. We’ll assess everything from there. It’s about building momentum and consistency.
“Nobody’s to be taken lightly in this league. It doesn’t matter where people are in the table, it’s how you perform on the day that counts.”