Featherstone Rovers v Bradford Bulls - Fev boss James Webster excited for Challenge Cup opener

Featherstone Rovers are “as ready as we can be” for their home Betfred Challenge Cup cracker against Bradford Bulls, coach James Webster says.

Friday, 19th March 2021, 4:45 pm
Kris Welham could make his Rovers debut in his first Challenge Cup tie since last year's final when he played for Salford. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.

Rovers won both their pre-season games, but Sunday's 3pm kick-off - which will be played behind closed doors and streamed live on the BBC Sport website - is their first competitive fixture since a win over Hunslet in the same competition on March 13 last year.

After a gap of 373 days, Webster admitted: “You don’t know until you get out there.”

He said: “There’s been plenty of times since I’ve been a coach when we’ve finished pre-season flying or you think you’ve struggled and you come out and it is totally different.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Callum Field, with ball, is included in Rovers' squad to face Bradford. Picture by Dec Hayes Photography.

“It’s interesting the first game being the Challenge Cup, because there’s so much riding on it.

“We are going to go out there confident in the squad we’ve got, but realistic that the first game is unpredictable.”

Bulls lost to Swinton Lions in their first warm-up match before a narrow win over Keighley Cougars last week, but their coach, John Kear, is a Challenge Cup specialist and Webster said Rovers won’t be taking pre-season form into account.

“That’s what trials are for, to trial things,” he said.

“They mixed their team up, like we did and when they played their strongest team in the friendlies, they were winning.

“They have recruited well and John will have them revved up for it.”

Webster’s 19-man squad includes ex-Leeds Rhinos duo Harvey Spence and Liam Whitton, along with fellow signings Callum Field, Frankie Halton, Craig Kopczak, Connor Jones and Kris Welham, but former Castleford Tigers forward Junior Moors is still awaiting his visa will not play and NRL recruit Nu Brown also misses out.

“We’re excited, like all teams will be,” Webster said. “It is a chance to get out there and play a competitive game and the first game being in the Challenge Cup is a unique experience. We’re really excited about being part of it.”

The winners will play host to either Halifax or Batley Bulldogs, who meet this evening, in round two next weekend.

Support the YEP and become a subscriber today. Enjoy unlimited access to local news and the latest on Leeds United, With a digital subscription, you see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Click here to subscribe.