Bradford Bulls coach John Kear says the club has added Super League quality to its squad in Hull FC threequarter Matty Dawson-Jones.
The former St Helens and Leigh player made a permanent switch to the Bulls last week to bolster Kear’s ranks before the Championship kick-off.
Kear said: “He’s a Super League standard player who is looking to rebuild his career after having terrible luck last year.
“He made a really good debut for Hull and he can play in both centre and wing positions, so there’s a versatility aspect there.
“He’s outstanding in bringing the ball back in yardage, he can do the tough, dirty work and he is a good finisher.
“That’s why we’ve brought him in and we’re delighted to have him.”
Kear is a former Castleford team-mate of Dawson-Jones’ father-in-law Keith Jones.
And the Bulls coach has confirmed that forward Sam Barlow did not break his arm in the pre-season defeat at Dewsbury, but dislocated his wrist.
The club is waiting for final confirmation on the damage he has suffered, but Kear expects him to be missing for around six weeks.
Sam Hallas was not risked against York at the weekend, but will be fit for the league campaign, leaving Barlow, long-term absentee Connor Farrell and the suspended George Flanagan as the only players definitely unavailable to face London Broncos on Sunday.
Kear has also explained the reasons behind the club playing five pre-season matches after he had initially intended to reduce their winter workload compared to recent years.
He said: “We arranged three games against Castleford, Leeds and Dewsbury and thought that would be it.
“It was only when Hunslet and York rang and assured us that the previous management had agreed to fixtures with them that it changed.
“They were valid claims that had clear email trails, indicating that the club had promised to play them.
“Our management decided that we should honour those agreements and I agreed with that, but next year we are completely clear.”
BATLEY BULLDOGS coach Craig Lingard is considering linking with a Super League club on dual-registration, but with a view to giving his own fringe players game time rather than the other way round.
Lingard was left disappointed recently when Hull FC decided to link with Bradford Bulls ahead of the Bulldogs for the 2020 campaign.
But he is now considering approaching Super League clubs about the possibility of members of his squad featuring in their reserve teams.
Lingard currently has four players on trial at the club – Nyle Flynn, Sam Bowring, Dom Horne and Tom Harrington – and their futures could depend on Lingard’s ability to get them onto the field.
“We’re having a few conversations about potentially looking to dual-register with a reserve team,” said Lingard.
“That way we could send our first-team players that aren’t getting a game over to them and get them some rugby.
“We’ve got a few meetings and telephone calls planned to follow up over the next week or so, and that might help make the decision on the triallist lads.
“Hopefully we can get something sorted with a view to giving the players not in the 20-man squad some game time.”
Of the four triallists, centre Harrington has been unable to feature in the pre-season matches due to a suspension carried over from the amateur game and his time with Dewsbury Moor.
He is a former Wakefield junior who came through the ranks alongside Bulldogs pair Lucas Walshaw and Dale Morton.
Lingard will this week check on a host of minor injuries that kept players out of the final pre-season game against Huddersfield at the weekend.
James Brown (adductor), Horne (knee), Tyler Dickinson (back, calf, shoulder), Anthony Bowman (concussion) and Johnny Campbell (hamstring) are all hoping to be available to take on Featherstone in the Bulldogs’ Championship opener.
LEIGH CENTURIONS coach John Duffy says he could see clear progress in Thursday’s final pre-season game against Wigan compared to their previous clash with Salford.
Duffy’s side beat a youthful Warriors team 12-6 at Leigh Sports Village and he was happy with what his players had taken on board from the Red devils’ defeat.
Duffy said: “I was really happy with our attitude and we looked good in big parts of the game.
“I was a lot happier than I was against Salford with the things we were trying to put right from that game.
“Wigan were absolutely brilliant and you can see why they’ve got such a great youth system.
“They really tested us in every department and that was great for us.
“We tried to have a bit more continuity in our play. But you can’t keep swapping your halves and that’s probably why we were a bit rusty with the ball.
“I thought we were dogged in defence and our goal-line and scramble were really good; you could see that desire.”
Duffy praised the performance of the entire team and made mention of Craig Mullen’s contribution from fullback.
Duffy said: “He’s going to be a sensational player when he develops a bit and has a bit more composure.
“You can see why we’ve brought him to the club.”
Matty Wildie played the full 80 minutes at hooker, with Liam Hood missing with a minor calf issue that will be assessed this week to see if he can play in the Championship opener at Dewsbury.
Duffy added: “We’ve got a big week for the club ahead of what we want to achieve this season.
“It’s a big week for me too, picking the right squad to go to Dewsbury to get a win.
“It’ll be even more boggy now there are two teams playing on it.”
FEATHERSTONE ROVERS chief executive Davide Longo, in an address to supporters, has said the club’s target this year is Super League.
Longo posted an update on the club’s off-field position last week, which included expectations for the new campaign.
He said: “We’ve put together a strong team to compete at the highest level in the Championship.
“The support in the play-offs last season was fantastic and we urge any fan that hasn’t been down to the stadium for a while to support us in 2020.
“Our focus for this year is placing Featherstone back to where it belongs.
“It would be fantastic to see the club playing in the Super League when we will be celebrating its centenary year in 2021.
“We are fully aware of the strength of other clubs in the league and understand the need to be consistent throughout the season, but we believe our squad is ready for the challenge ahead.
“All in all, the club is operating at a good level with a strong off-field team of staff and volunteers.
“We continue to raise standards right across the business and we are committed to giving all fans a great experience when they visit the stadium.”
On the field, Rovers should have loan centre Greg Worthington in their side for the opening game of the season at Batley on Sunday.
Toronto threequarter Worthington has missed parts of pre-season with illness but is expected to be available.
Coach James Webster will definitely be missing injured quartet Thomas Minns, John Davies, Jack Render and Dakota Whylie.
But he will be able to call on a handful of Leeds Rhinos dual-registration players that are yet to be confirmed.
YORK CITY KNIGHTS have handed contracts to 16-year-old duo AJ Rowse and Myles Harrison.
The Heworth pair come under the new RFL rules that will allow them to train with James Ford’s squad while continuing to play at their community club.
They impressed Ford in the pre-season game at Featherstone and in training and he is keen to play a part in their continuing development.
Ford said: “Although we don’t see them playing first-team rugby straight away, they’ve got a lot of promise and we want to continue working with them.
“They need somewhere to play and develop, and Heworth is a great environment for them to do that, combined with being at our place.
“Myles is a fullback who could mature into a half, has a good kicking game and his skill has shown up well in our small-sided, reactive games.
“His attitude and approach have been very mature.
“AJ is a winger who is physically probably a bit further on than Miles and who has shown all the same qualities.
“There is a commitment there to improve and as long as that character remains, they’ll have a good chance.”
WIDNES VIKINGS coach Tim Sheens says the club is close to confirming the futures of the five players who are currently on trial at the club.
Jordan Case, Connor Williams, Kevin Brown, Liam Hulme and Callum Wood have all been looking to follow in the footsteps of Connor Dwyer after he earned a permanent deal with the Vikings.
They were all set to feature in a midweek opposed session to give the club’s coaching staff a further chance to assess their ability.
Sheens said: “We’ll be making offers to at least four of them, with a fifth one to make a final decision on.
“It’s an opportunity for them.
“Because it’s the Championship, the step up to the first team is easier to make than in Super League, and I think all five could play some part this year if they’re playing well enough.”
Sheens is also looking at the market for front rowers after it was confirmed that Jay Chapelhow could miss at least two months with an ankle injury.
Sheens added: “He’s had a great pre-season, which is why him and Ted were handed the eight and 10 jumpers, so it’s disappointing.
“He’s had two in 12 months on the same leg, so he’s seeing a specialist to see if any surgery is required.”
LONDON BRONCOS coach Danny Ward says hooker Eloi Pelissier is closing in on a return to action, almost nine months since his last match.
The French international suffered a broken arm in the Super League game at home to Wakefield in May.
Complications have meant he hasn’t played since, and although he won’t be ready for the Championship kick-off, he shouldn’t be unavailable much longer.
Ward said: “He’s still out but not too far away.
“It’s been a frustrating time for Eloi. He had an operation but it took longer to heal than we thought and he’s got some metal in there.
“He’s been to see a specialist this week and isn’t too far away from full training, so hopefully he’ll only miss one or two games.”
The Broncos continue to wait for a visa for former Hull KR forward Mitch Allgood, who has agreed to join them for 2020.
The club has also signed triallists Jay White and Lawrence Haywood for their new reserve team after they both impressed in pre-season.
SHEFFIELD EAGLES coach Mark Aston says Irish triallist James Mulvany has impressed him with his attitude.
Prop Mulvany, who played off the bench for Ireland in their crucial World Cup qualifier against Italy, is hoping to earn a permanent contract at the club.
Aston said: “He was recommended to us by Ged Corcoran, who thought he had some ability in him.
“We’re all about developing players, so we invited him to start training with us and see where it goes.
“He’s a good kid who’s had a couple of run outs with us, and under the new rules we’re now able to retain five players that can keep their amateur status while playing with us.
“He’s only 19 and probably not ready for Championship level at the moment, but he might be ready for the level below if we give him some time.
“We’ll see what happens with him.”
Prop Matty James looks unlikely to be available for the season kick-off with the club still waiting to hear if he needs the screw removing from ankle surgery he had last season.
DEWSBURY RAMS’ coach Lee Greenwood says that halfback Morgan Punchard’s performance in the pre-season win over Bradford has bolstered his playmaking options for 2020.
The former Keighley, Featherstone and Halifax youngster played alongside Michael Knowles, with experienced duo Liam Finn and Paul Sykes both not featuring.
Greenwood said: “Morgan did well, managing to get a full 80 minutes, which meant he didn’t have to go chasing things that weren’t there.
“He could chill out a bit and play his own game. Michael Knowles was good alongside him and we put Dom Speakman in there too.
“That gives us five options at halfback and means we’re not flapping too much in that department.”
SWINTON LIONS coach Stuart Littler will speak to his Wigan Academy counterpart Darrell Goulding this week about which Warriors youngsters are likely to be available on dual-registration.
The two clubs have worked in partnership in recent years and will again link up for the 2020 campaign.
Littler said: “I’m in touch with Darrell constantly and speaking to them about players. We’ll touch base this week and see how we move forward with it.”
Littler hopes to have a fully fit squad for the Championship opener against Whitehaven, although he lamented the postponed Rochdale pre-season clash, as it means new signing Brandon Wood will not have featured yet due to a two-match ban from last year.
WHITEHAVEN coach Gary Charlton has consulted his Australian-based father Paul over potential halfback recruits from Down Under.
Haven have been looking for an extra playmaking option since their planned move for former Featherstone stand-off Ase Boas fell through.
Brett Carter and Glenn Riley are both set to missing the opening two weeks of the Championship season.
Utility back Carter has a hamstring issue, while prop Riley has a displaced kneecap.
TOULOUSE OLYMPIQUE have confirmed their squad numbers for the 2020 season.
New signings Jy Hitchcox and Frank Winterstein have both been handed shirts in the starting 13.
Fellow new recruits Lloyd White and Harrison Hansen will wear 14 and 16 respectively.
Toulouse Olympique 2020 squad numbers: 1 Mark Kheirallah, 2 Jy Hitchcox, 3 Junior Vaivai, 4 Mathieu Jussaume, 5 Paul Marcon, 6 Johnathon Ford, 7 Stan Robin, 8 Maxime Puech, 9 Anthony Marion, 10 Joe Bretherton, 11 Con Mika, 12 Frank Winterstein, 13 James Bell, 14 Lloyd White, 15 Ben Evans, 16 Harrison Hansen, 17 Paterika Vaivai, 18 Clement Boyer, 19 Bastien Ader, 20 Ilias Bergal, 21 Tony Maurel, 22 Jean-Pierre Lima, 23 Justin Sangare, 30 William Barthau.
OLDHAM will be without props Jode Sheriffe and Ben Davies for their Championship opener against Widnes on Sunday.
The experienced duo are the only two definite absentees for the Roughyeds’ return to the second tier.
Coach Matt Diskin is set to assess close season signing John Hutchings this week before making a final decision on him.
But prop Jack Spencer and centre Cameron Leeming are both expected to be fit after missing the final pre-season game against St Helens.
HALIFAX expect key trio Scott Murrell, James Woodbury-Hall and Jodie Broughton to be fit for Sunday’s season opener with Sheffield.
Murrell (knee), Woodburn-Hall (ribs) and Broughton (concussion) all sustained injuries in the pre-season clash with York City Knights.
But forward Ben Kavanagh is set to require surgery after dislocating his hip in the win over Hull FC.
Kavanagh and Sion Jones, who has targeted a return to action this spring after almost a year out with a serious knee injury, should be coach Simon Grix’s only unavailable players for the Eagles clash.