Featherstone Rovers: Room for improvement - Powell

Featherstone Rovers can improve on last year, coach Daryl Powell believes.

Rovers finished top of the Co-op Championship table, but suffered an agonising sudden-death extra-time loss to Halifax in the title-deciding Grand Final, after building a big lead with 20 minutes to go.

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Powell feels his team have strengthened and improved from their 2010 experience – and they will get a first chance to prove it when they begin their pre-season campaign at home to Hunslet Hawks tomorrow.

The match has been re-arranged from Boxing Day and Powell said: "These games are an indication of where we are at physically.

"It is always a difficult time of year, we train hard, but the guys are going to enjoy themselves a bit and that is fair enough.

"There's a number of players in the squad who have got something to prove – either they have just come in or they didn't have the season they wanted to last year.

"There's going to be a few blokes in our squad who need to perform well every time we go out on to the field.

"This game is important for quite a few of the players and I am expecting us to be really strong and physical and to do what we have been working on in practice.

"We want to show some signs of improvement from what we did last year."

Hawks romped to the Championship One title last year and tomorrow will be a first guide to what they can expect at a higher level in 2011.

"We are looking forward to it," said player/coach Paul March. "It is a measure of how far we have come and how much hard work we have still got to do.

"We just want to get on the field now and start building towards the season."

Hawks prepared with an opposed training session against amateur neighbours Hunslet Warriors and March said: "That was very helpful and I want to thank Warriors for that."

Powell will field the squad he named for Boxing Day. Hawks' only change is the addition of Tommy Haughey, who was unavailable last weekend, while Danny Ratcliffe is set to miss out due to injury.

Batley Bulldogs and visitors Dewsbury Rams will also try again tomorrow, after being denied by a frozen pitch on Boxing Day.

Both coaches will stick with their Boxing Day squads and Bulldogs boss Karl Harrison is anxious to see his team in match action.

"The last month has been really disruptive to everyone's preparations," he admitted. "We have done what we could do, like everyone else, but we are not as far on in our preparation for the season as we'd like to have been.

"In this game I just want to see what we have been working on in practice. We have got a few new players and I want to have a look at them, but the main thing is getting ready for the season."

Rams' Warren Jowitt admitted tomorrow's game is a gamble.

"It is an important fixture for the club and the fans, but for me as a coach it can be a bit of a hindrance," he said. "This is when you pick up injuries, which is what we don't want. We picked up a lot last year in pre-season friendlies, but the players do want to get out there and play.

"Austin Buchanan was gutted Boxing Day's game was called off. He had a long injury last year, but he has had a full pre-season and he can't wait to get on the field – he is itching to go."

Featherstone Rovers: from Hardman, Saxton, Smeaton, Welham, Powell, Briggs, Finn, Tonks, Kaye, Spears, Dale, Grayshon, A Kain, Divorty, Worthington, Dee, Steel, Muvuduvu, Gaunt, Williamson, Nurse.

Hunslet Hawks: Kain, Barnett, Clayton, Harding, Pryce, Grimshaw, P March, Sullivan, Haigh, Houston, Blakeway, Kelly, D March. Subs Cakacaka, Lowe, Ratcliffe, Helme, Oakes, Chapman, McLocklan, Woodcock, Yates, Haughey.

Referee: Matthew Kidd (Castleford).

Kick-off: Tomorrow, 3pm.

Batley Bulldogs: Preece, Reittie, Williams, Maun, Brown, Handforth, Moore, Smith, Lythe, Potter, Walton, Bretherton, Robinson. Subs Lindsay, Mennell, Tootill, Martin, Manning, Toohey.

Dewsbury Rams: from Craven, Wainwright, Faal, Turner, Buchanan, Walker, Brambani, England, Blake, Hirst, Spicer, Lockwood, Roberts, Tonks, Bibb, Saxton, Wilson, Horton, Shaw, Cosgrove, Wall.

Referee: Craig Halloran (Dewsbury).

Kick-off: Tomorrow, 2pm.

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