Promoted sides do battle in opener

Hunslet Hawks coach Paul March has a fully fit squad to pick from as he tries to engineer three points from Hunslet’s first Co-operative Championship fixture.

March has recovered from a groin problem while Richard Blakeway has also been given the all clear from an ankle complaint.

March said: “We’re much improved from the start of the year, but the intensity levels are going to rise again this week.

“The speed is faster in the Co-operative Championship, and the referees are looking for cleaner rucks. But we’ve got the players and the experience in our squad, and we should go OK.”

March has taken encouragement from his side’s Northern Rail Cup endeavours. He said: “We’ve already shown against Batley and Sheffield that we’ll be competitive this year.

“The main difference this year is that we can’t give teams too much possession, because they’ll definitely score points at this level.”

Elliott Kear comes back into the Hawks’ reckoning as his week-to-week loan deal from Crusaders continues.

Knights coach Dave Woods, who like March is also steering a team newly-promoted into the Co-operative Championship, said: “It’s really important that we get a good start.

“If we can surprise a couple of teams early on and get some points on the board, that will stand us in good stead. We’re confident in our own ability and we think we can do all right.”

Woods must decide whether to make major changes to last week’s record-breaking 17-man squad that won 132-0 against the University of Northumbria.

The York City Knights coach has eight other players at his disposal this week, including dual-registered trio John Davies, Nathan Massey and Jordan Thompson.

Ian Bell, Matt Garside, Nathan Freer and Ben Jones are also ready, so we’ve got some choices to make,” said Woods.

Ryan Esders starts a four-match suspension after being found guilty of two incidents during a Northern Rail Cup fixture with Keighley.

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