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Northern Rail Cup previews

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Sunday May 19

Northern Rail Cup

Featherstone Rovers v Leigh Centurions (3.00pm)

Featherstone Rovers’ interim head coach Ryan Sheridan has set his sights on Northern Rail Cup glory as he prepares to steer the club until the end of the season.

Sheridan said: The Northern Rail Cup is an important trophy and one of our targets in 2013 is to win the trophy.

“Leigh, despite their off the field problems, are playing really well and have an excellent group of players.”

Leigh Centurions captain Rob Parker is facing six to eight weeks on the sidelines after being told he needs a finger operation, but Leigh coach Paul Rowley remains upbeat.

Rowley said: “Featherstone are what they are; they’re the model of consistency and they raise for us. We expect that and we won’t be worrying too much about it.

“Under Ryan they’ll have similar beliefs and, while they might have one or two new ideas, I don’t think they’ll have any significant changes.

“They’re a consistent team and they’ve got very good personnel.”

Keighley Cougars v Batley Bulldogs (3.00pm)

Keighley Cougars coach Paul March is calling for a more ruthless approach from his side ahead of Sunday’s Northern Rail Cup tie with Batley Bulldogs.

Keighley, who lost 42-10 against Batley in the first league game of the season, lost 18-10 against Dewsbury Rams last week.

March said: If we’d have taken our opportunities, it would’ve been a different game.”

Batley coach John Kear will be without Miles Greenwood, while Paul Mennell will be assessed on Thursday after missing Tuesday’s training session through illness.

Greenwood is facing four weeks on the sidelines after undergoing a knee operation.

Kear said: “Without our partnership with Huddersfield, and the medical care that involves, he’d have probably missed the majority of the season – but now he’ll be back for the business end. I’m absolutely delighted.”

On Keighley, Kear added: “Knockout rugby excites everybody. There’s no tomorrow without a today.

“You’ve got to go out and play really well.”

He continued: “You’d expect a team to develop as a season goes on and Keighley certainly have done. They’ve markedly improved.

“I watched their game against Dewsbury and they were very good in the first half. They’re a better team than earlier in the year, but so are we.”

London Skolars v Whitehaven (2.00pm)

London Skolars coach Joe Mbu insists revenge for last month’s Tetley’s Challenge Cup defeat against Whitehaven will not come into his thoughts ahead of Sunday’s Northern Rail Cup tie.

Mbu said: “I’m looking to challenge Whitehaven and win the game, rather than seeing the contest as a need for revenge. It’s not about getting one back.”

Whitehaven will travel to Northampton on Saturday, train in the afternoon and then head to London on Sunday morning.

‘Haven coach Dave Woods said: “It’s a difficult situation – we’ve got some blokes coming off night shifts on Friday night – but we’ve just got to adapt as best we can.”

He added: “London have got some real big boys in the pack and we know it will be tough.

“It’s not a game we can be assured of winning; we know we’ll have to play well. Our pack is going to have to get over the top of them.”

Woods has a fully fit squad, with Cain Southernwood having come through a full training session on Tuesday with no adverse reaction.

Sheffield Eagles v Barrow Raiders (3.00pm)

Liam Higgins could return for Sheffield Eagles as coach Mark Aston attempts to plot a route to the Northern Rail Cup final.

Aston said: We’ve never achieved as I would have hoped in the Northern Rail Cup, but maybe this will be our year.

“Players want to get to the big games and we want to be in the final.

Scott Kaighan and Jack Spencer are both ruled out for Barrow Raiders but coach Darren Holt has an otherwise fully fit squad.

Holt said: “Having last week off certainly helped. The second half of our game against Halifax was very disappointing and we had a lot of things to work on in terms of the physical side of our game.”

However, despite having only two injured players, Holt has revealed he will make a number of changes to his team.

“The changes this week will be changes I’d already planned to make in order to try a few things. Some of it is performance related, and some of it is trying a few new combinations. It’s the ideal opportunity to do that.”

Swinton Lions v North Wales Crusaders (3.00pm)

Mark Smith should return for Swinton Lions, but Danny Bridge (hand) is doubtful.

Swinton coach Gary Chambers is also waiting to discover which dual-registered players are available, with news from Warrington set to emerge on Thursday afternoon.

Chambers has warned his side against complacency ahead of Sunday’s Northern Rail Cup last-16 clash.

He said: “I know Clive Griffiths and a load of their lads down at the Crusaders. They’re a good team with lots of good players. I’m in no doubt about what they’re capable of.

“I’ve told my players about them. They’re a very good team and they’re easily capable of holding their own in the division above.”

Jono Smith (pelvis) is likely to be missing for North Wales Crusaders, with coach Clive Griffiths challenging his side to prove their defensive capabilitieson Sunday.

Griffiths said: “There are all sorts of rumours flying around as to who’s going to be dual-registered for them, but we’ll prepare the same way as we prepare for any other team.

“We had good defence against Oxford last week, and if we can keep doing that then we won’t do so bad, even when we’re off-colour with our attacking play.”

Workington Town v Hunslet Hawks (3.00pm)

Carl Forber looks set to return to the Workington Town team for Sunday’s Northern Rail Cup fixture.

Town coach Gary Charlton said: “We’re taking nothing for granted and Hunslet will again be a difficult team to beat, but the quarter-finals beckon and I’m confident that we can do well in this competition.”

Barry Eaton has no new injury concerns ahead of Sunday’s trip to Workington, but loan signing Thomas Coyle will not feature for Hunslet Hawks.

Eaton said: “We’ve got four games in 14 days coming up, so we’ve a really tough couple of weeks ahead of us.

“We’re not in bad nick, and having last weekend off came at just the right time for us.”

He added: “We played Workington in the league two weeks ago and they’re going really well, especially at home.

“They’ve a very good pack and they like to get stuck in, but we’ve not got a lot to lose.

“We’ll go up there, give it our best shot, and hopefully be in the hat for the next round.”

York City Knights v Doncaster (3.00pm)

Jack Lee (knee) is York City Knights’ biggest doubt for Sunday’s Northern Rail Cup tie with Doncaster, although coach Gary Thornton will also check on a number of other players.

Sam Scott, James Ford, Nathan Freer, Adam Sullivan and Jack Latus all missed last week’s Tetley’s Challenge Cup clash against Catalan Dragons.

The Knights lost 92-8 in Perpignan, but Thornton insists there was plenty for his side to be positive about.

Thornton said: If we played like that against Championship opponents in games we’ve lost, we could have won.”

Doncaster coach Tony Miller is hopeful that Carl Hughes could return to action this weekend.

Miller said: “He came back too soon last time and missed another four or five weeks, and we didn’t want to make that mistake again. He’s doing all the training now.”

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