Coaches Coyle and Sharp are looking for a good test

Hunslet coach James Coyle.
Hunslet coach James Coyle.
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NEW BOSS James Coyle is “happy” with Hunslet’s squad and looking forward to seeing his team in action for the first time.

Coyle, who took over from Matt Bramald four months ago, will take his team to Featherstone Rovers tomorrow for the annual Gareth Swift Memorial Trophy tie (3pm). The game marks the start of a new era for Hunslet – who dropped Hawks from their name at the end of last season – and Coyle is keen to test their progress.

Featherstone head coach Jon Sharp.

Featherstone head coach Jon Sharp.

“We’ve been training since the first week in November,” Coyle said. “We’ve got plenty of training under our belt and we’re ready for a game.

“We [Kingstone Press League One] start a bit later than the Championship and we’ve got this week’s game and then Leeds the week after.

“After those two games we’ll look at what we want to do, make some changes and see where we are. We’ll go back and spend a bit of time working on what we perceive as the weaknesses.”

Rovers play at a higher level in the Championship and Coyle added: “It is about getting a measure of where we are and of what understanding we have of the way we want to play.

“Can we match them in physicality and go set-for-set and what’s our fitness looking like? All the little things we’ve been working on in the off-season. It will be a tough game, Featherstone are a really strong side and if we can hold our own it will all bode well.”

Former Leeds Rhinos academy players Jack Norfolk, Joe Sanderson and Nyle Flynn will make their first appearance for Hunslet, along with fellow signings Omar Alrawi, Cameron Leeming and Jack Walton. Jack Lee is unavailable following a family bereavement and Gavin Duffy (hamstring) also misses out.

Of his squad, Coyle said: “I’m happy at the minute. We’ve got 29 players signed and they’re all fit, that’s a big thing for me in terms of competition for places and quality in training.”

Rovers are less than a month away from their first competitive match, at Halifax on February 5. Preparations began with a win at Halifax on Boxing Day and coach Jon Sharp said: “We laid some good foundations in that game.

“We want to continue with that and build on that and give opportunities to people who probably didn’t have as much game time. Over the next month we want to give everyone chance to stake a claim for a place in the team for round one.”

Sharp expects – and wants – Hunslet to give his team a stern test, despite their third tier status.

“This fixture last year was a tough one,” he said. “I don’t want it to be any different regarding the competitiveness of it. There were a couple of dust-ups last year, which I didn’t like and hope we’re not going to see. It’s very much about it being a tough game and that’s as far as it goes.”

Former Salford, Batley and Wakefield centre/second-row Jason Walton, who joined Rovers following Bradford Bulls’ liquidation this week, is set to make his first appearance.