FEATHERSTONE ROVERS will unveil star signing Paul Wood in tomorrow’s pre-season game at Wakefield Trinity Wildcats.
The 33-year-old prop – who has two Challenge Cup winner’s medals and 309 Super League appearances to his name – joined Rovers from Warrington Wolves this week on a two-year contract.
“He has fitted in really well,” said Rovers coach Andy Hay. “He has a massive amount of respect from the group and I think he is a really good signing for us.
“It is not just his playing ability. His record speaks for itself, but it is also what he can bring to the professionalism of the club and the playing group.
“We needed a tough pack leader and I think he is it. He definitely fits the bill.”
Hay is looking for Rovers to make “the next step in our progression” tomorrow, following a solid performance in an 18-0 defeat by Castleford Tigers at at the Jungle two weeks ago.
“I am looking for the same attitude and enthusiasm and hopefully we can fix our defence up a bit,” he said.
“Wakefield have got a lot of threats and they are putting a good side out, so we are expecting a big game.
“I’m looking at maybe us executing our plays a bit better in attack.
“That was the only down side of the game against Cas. We have worked on it a bit and I think we will be more fluent. We’re looking to have a good run out and improve on the last game.”
It is a similar story for Wakefield boss James Webster, whose team were crushed 50-28 at Leeds Rhinos on Boxing Day.
“We’ve picked a team that’s a lot stronger in certain positions,” Webster said. “
“We haven’t got anyone other than Ian Kirke (slight groin strain) and maybe Matty Ashurst (groin) unavailable through injury, so most of our first 20 players will be playing a good chunk of the game.”
Webster reckons the way his team approach tomorrow’s game is vital.
“Hopefully mentally we are better,” he said.
“We played like a team thinking it was a chore playing at Christmas, instead of a team going out thinking about trying to get some form on the board to get a shirt.
“The attitude has to be better this week and I am sure it will be. We have trained like that.
“We are making some progress, but you don’t know until you jump into the water and see whether it’s warm or cold. Until we’ve had a game with our strongest side out we aren’t going to know for sure, but if we can see some improvement in certain areas this week, we will walk away happy, regardless of what the score is.”
Wakefield are being tipped to be in the bottom-four of First Utility Super League after 23 rounds this year, which could see them facing Rovers in the new structure’s middle-eights, if Featherstone are among the Kingstone Press Championship’s leading quartet.
“They will give us more than a test,” Webster predicted of tomorrow’s derby. “We went to their place last year and got smashed. I watched them against Castleford and they did a really good job.
“Other than last season they’ve been the yardstick in the Championship for three or four years and they are a more than capable side.
“They’ve got Paul Sykes and Paul Wood and four kids from Leeds, so they have plenty of Super League experience.”
Wakefield Trinity Wildcats: from Hall, Riley, Lyne, Collis, Johnstone, Miller, T Smith, Anderson, Godinet, Scruton, Ryan, Kirmond, Washbrook, McShane, Lauitiiti, D Smith, Paea, Owen, Sammut, Annakin, Molloy, Simon.
Featherstone Rovers: from Baldwinson, Blackmore, Chappell, Cording, Ellis, Foster, Hardman, Irwin, James, Johnson, Lockwood, Milner, Minns, Moore, Ormondroyd, Sharp, Spears, Sykes, Tonks, Walmsley, Wood.
Referee: James Child.
Kick-off: Tomorrow, 2pm.