1895 Cup final: Paul March takes charge of Featherstone Rovers for Wembley clash with York City Knights

At the start of this week, Paul March wasn’t expecting to be coaching in a Wembley Cup final this afternoon.

Saturday, 17th July 2021, 12:54 am

The Featherstone Rovers assistant-boss will take charge of the team for the 1895 Cup clash with York City Knights after coach James Webster was forced to isolate because of contracting Covid-19.

Rovers’ players and staff went to bed last night not knowing if the game would go ahead, after three of York’s squad tested positive. A decision was due to be made this morning, after Knights underwent a final round of testing.

Rovers were in a similar situation earlier in the week, but came through their final PCR and lateral flow tests with no new cases. Featherstone travelled to London yesterday and speaking at the team’s eve of final Wembley walkabout, March admitted it would be a shame if the game didn’t happen.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Paul March at Wembley on Friday. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.

“We know how York are feeling, having been through it ourselves,” March said.

“We are hoping it is on, we are here and we know they’ve arrived [in London] as well. Hopefully their final tests will come through negative and the game will go ahead.

“It will be a nervous wait, but it has been all week, waiting for results to come back.”

Of his unexpected and temporary promotion, March said: “It is disappointing James has picked up Covid, but it is an opportunity for me now.

Rovers' squad at Wembley. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.

“It is about me just guiding the team. James was on Zoom this morning, giving instructions to the players and we went out and trained. It is all his work going into it, it is just for me to make sure I guide the players through.”

The drama and disruption did not end even after Rovers reached their hotel.

March revealed: “As we arrived in London, James Lockwood’s wife has gone into labour.

“He is travelling back up to Wakefield and will be back down ready for kick-off. It is just hurdles we have to overcome and I’m confident we’ve got a group who will be ready to play.”

Of the coaching set up today, March said: “James has been in this situation before, where he has taken charge of a side when the head coach wasn’t there. Being on the phone didn’t work that time, so we will have a plan going into the game, but I will be in sole charge once it goes ahead.”