Featherstone relishing Pia test

Featherstone Rovers coach Daryl Powell is relishing the chance to test his 2011 Co-operative Championship winning team against new opposition with the introduction of Sunday’s Anglo-French Challenge pitting his charges against 2012 French Elite One Championship winners Pia XIII.

This is the first time that Rugby League talent from the Co-operative Championship and the French Elite Division will go head to head for the right to be crowned European club champions and Powell knows his side can take nothing for granted.

“It will be a good challenge for us and a chance to test ourselves and the Championship against our French counterparts,” said Powell. 

“We have had some experience playing against French teams such as Toulouse and Lezignan in the past. They are big, physical sides that are fast-paced so we are expecting a tough contest against Pia.

“They finished top of the league and although they had a few defeats towards the end of the season, they are a good side that will be looking to top their triumph in the league with a win against us on Sunday so we will have to be at our best to win.

“I am looking forward to the match and the opportunity to be crowned European club champions will be something special.”

The Anglo-French Challenge continues the link between the Co-operative Championship and the French Division One, which is something Powell hopes will help to continue the development of the sport of Rugby League in France.

“The new tournament and the connection with the Championship in the UK is great for the development of Rugby League in France,” said the Rovers coach.

“The growth of the sport in France has been significant over recent years; Catalan Dragons have progressed immensely in the Super League which is great for the country and the international game.”

Co-operative Championship side Leigh Centurions will also host a French side for the Anglo-French Challenge as they take on Avignon on Saturday June 2 at Leigh Sports Village (2.00pm).

Two other English clubs, Halifax RLFC and Sheffield Eagles, travel across the Chanel for the Anglo-French Challenge to face Toulouse Olympique and Carcassonne respectively.

In an innovative move, the strongest semi-professional Rugby League competition in Europe will be determined by the results of all four Anglo-French Challenge matches. Should the Anglo-French Challenge end 2-2, the best competition will be determined by aggregating the combined points scored in all four matches.

This weekend’s Anglo-French Challenge fixtures in full are as follows:

Saturday June 2

Carcassonne v Sheffield Eagles (6.00pm)
Leigh Centurions v Avignon (Premier Sports, 2.00pm)
Toulouse Olympique v Halifax (3.00pm)

Sunday June 3

Featherstone Rovers v Pia (Premier Sports, 3.00pm)