Kingstone Press Championship preview: Sheffield Eagles v Batley Bulldogs

Sheffield had a tough win against Whitehaven last weekend “on probably the worst pitch I’ve ever seen,” according to Director of Rugby Mark Aston.

“We did really, really well,” he said. “It was a leveller and we couldn’t play the football that we like to play but what I did like was that we toughed it out and the attitude and resilience of the group pulled us through.”

Looking ahead to this weekend he said: “Batley have started the season pretty well. There are four players there who played for Sheffield Eagles and John Kear coached here as well so there’s a bit of spice in there. The players will want to show me that I was wrong to let them go.

“They are playing with confidence and they work hard for each other and look like they’re enjoying themselves, which is the be-all and end-all as far as I’m concerned.”

There are concerns over Michael Knowles who has a thumb injury while Tony Tonks has had a virus and hasn’t trained all week plus Jon Molloy, on loan from Wakefield, has an ankle problem.

Batley coach John Kear said the defeat to Halifax was very physically demanding for his players: “Our players gave it 100 per cent and it was a very physical energy-draining game. All those things are being considered in our preparation and selection for this week,” he said.

On their challenge at Sheffield he added: “People are talking about Featherstone and Halifax for the fourth spot but I’ve always had a slight fancy for Sheffield. They’ve made some really shrewd recruitments and are playing this year on a pitch which suits them. I can see them coming up on the rails and getting that fourth spot – that’s how big the task is.”

Kear could be without James Craven for a while, the full-back having damaged his medial collateral knee ligament.

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