Northern Rail Cup Previews

University of Gloucestershire All Golds v Hemel Stags (3.00pm)

University of Gloucestershire All Golds coach Brad Hepi will name a full-strength side for the club’s first foray into semi-professional rugby league when they host Hemel Stags in Sunday’s Northern Rail Cup fixture.

Hepi said: “The nucleus of our side has been in training since August, and we’ve come through the student season with a clean bill of health.

“This is another step up in intensity, physicality and speed of the game, and how quickly our guys can adapt to that will be a reflection of how our season will go.

“We’re mentally and physically well prepared. There’s lots of confidence within the group, and that puts us in a good place. We can’t wait to get started.”

The Stags are also injury free as coach Troy Perkins puts the finishing touches to his squad’s preparations.

Perkins said: “We’ve been training three times a week since November in an effort to get the boys ready, and we’re all now raring to go.

“We’ve had a deliberately long pre-season in order to prepare as best we can and test the boys on their commitment to being semi-professional rugby league players.

“This match is a good introduction for us. We’re playing a team that are probably at a pretty similar standard to us, so it’ll be good for both teams.”

 

North Wales Crusaders v Oldham (2.30pm)

Kris Wilkes is North Wales Crusaders’ only injury absentee ahead of their Northern Rail Cup clash with Oldham.

North Wales coach Clive Griffiths said: “There’s a lot more expectation on us this year, even though we’re still only one year old.

“It’s not pressure; it’s expectation. If we can better the seven wins we had last year then we’ll all be happy.

“I’ve retained most of our squad from last year. They stuck with us through thick and thin, and they’ve grown together. You can see how much they’ve progressed when you watch them together.”

New Oldham coach Scott Naylor has praised his squad’s attitude ahead of the start of the new season.

“They’ve been top class,” said Naylor. “The lads I kept, I kept for a reason, and I knew most of the lads I brought in from my past. I know they’ll all give 100 per cent to the cause.

“Our training has been very intense, and we’re really looking forward to getting out on the pitch. We’ve a full squad, no injuries, and we couldn’t ask for a tougher start.”

 

Rochdale Hornets v Gateshead Thunder (3.00pm)

Gareth Frodsham (knee) faces a late fitness test before new Rochdale Hornets coach Ian Talbot confirms his line-up for Sunday’s Northern Rail Cup opener with Gateshead.

But Talbot has admitted that he expects Frodsham to be available for selection.

Talbot said: “We’ve got what I’d imagine to be a very competitive squad, and I’m really pleased with what we’ve got done during the off-season. We’re itching to get going.”

On Gateshead, Talbot added: “At this stage of the season the only video we’ve got is from their pre-season friendly, so while we’ve done a bit to identify a couple of their strengths and weaknesses, the majority of our focus is on ourselves.”

Thunder coach Kevin Neighbour is optimistic about Gateshead’s chances in 2013.

Neighbour said: “We’ve had a good talk about what’s ahead of us, and we need to get back into the action now.

“Quite a few players have left since last season, and we’ve managed to bring in players with a bit more experience at a higher level.

“There are a few guys with a point to prove, and those who have stayed want to do well for the club. There’s a positive feeling about the club.”

 

South Wales Scorpions v London Skolars (3.00pm)

South Wales Scorpions coach Dave Clark is set to give late fitness tests to Ollie Olds and Chris Vitalini ahead of Sunday’s Northern Rail Cup clash with London Skolars.

However, Shaun Owens is definitely ruled out as Clark attempts to start the season with a win.

Clark said: “We’ve a good squad of players, so hopefully against London we’ll start our season on a positive note.”

He added: “We’re a young side but there’s a lot of potential. Our mentality has changed a bit (from last year) and we’ve matured as a team.”

Skolars coach Joe Mbu is likely to face increased pressure in 2013 after London narrowly missed out on last year’s play-offs.

But Mbu will be keen to continue his side’s progress when their season starts on Sunday.

Mbu said: “I’m not speculating about the result. We just want to go out and perform, and the rest should take care of itself.”

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