Hemel Stags v Gateshead Thunder
Sunday 2.30pm at Pennine Way
Hemel Stags are without Ciaren Clement-Pascall for up to eight weeks after he dislocated his shoulder against South Wales Scorpions.
But Stags coach Troy Perkins has an otherwise fully-fit squad to select from for Sunday’s Kingstone Press Championship One match with Gateshead Thunder.
Perkins said: “We played alright in patches last week and did well in the last quarter, but the pleasing thing is that our attitude is good.
“Gateshead look pretty sharp and I would imagine they will have a couple of dual-registration players from Hull KR, so we know they will be very dangerous.”
He added: “We are getting better each week. We weren’t a million miles away against Hunslet, then we played a bit better against Oldham and got a draw, and then put some points on South Wales at the back end of the game.
“We are improving, and we have a lot of new players that are still getting to know each other. It’s coming together, and we have targeted the next couple of games as very winnable. We have got Gateshead, South Wales Scorpions and then London Skolars coming up, and if we can pick up a few wins that will put us up there on the ladder.”
Gateshead forward Rhys Clarke will make his 100th career appearance if he plays. Clarke has played 33 games for in two spells with Gateshead and was previously with York and Whitehaven.
London Skolars v Oldham
Sunday 3pm at New River Stadium
London Skolars coach Joe Mbu will pick from a full-strength squad when he finalises the team that will take on Oldham in Sunday’s mouthwatering Kingstone Press Championship One fixture.
The Skolars played Featherstone under-20s in a friendly last week, with Mbu admitting that plenty of players had made their mark.
Mbu said: “A lot of the guys that I thought were a long way away showed they are not that far away from where they need to be.”
On Oldham, he added: “They are well coached and well drilled team. That’s what every team works towards, having a well-drilled team in attack and defence and everyone knowing their roles.
“Our biggest challenge at the moment is getting players to understand where they need to be, but we are doing OK. We just need to keep our heads down and keep working hard, and certainly we’ve been doing that this week.”
He continued: “The main priority for me and the club is to show improvement each year, not just as a club but as a developing squad. Each year we are showing small improvements and that’s because of the way we approach things.”
Oldham travel without Liam Thompson (fractured cheekbone) and David Cookson (groin).
Oxford v Hunslet Hawks
Sunday 3pm at Iffley Road
Oxford coach Tony Benson expects to be without Sean Morris (concussion) and Valu Bentley (knee) for Sunday’s match with title favourites Hunslet Hawks.
But Benson insists revenge is not part of Oxford’s motivation, despite losing heavily against Hunslet in the Tetley’s Challenge Cup last week.
Benson said: “It’s not about revenge; they’re a good side and they are favourites for the comp. It’s just a case of us being a lot more competitive throughout the 80 minutes. We are focusing on being as good as we should be.”
He added: “Being at home should help by taking out the travel, and a lot of players in our squad are new to this level and are adjusting at the moment – and that’s a process that takes time.”
Hunslet hooker Liam Hood has been ruled out for up to six weeks after undergoing an operation on a compound fracture in his index finger.
John Oakes (ankle) and Thomas Coyle (groin) are also doubtful as coach Barry Eaton tries to ensure there is no complacency among his players.
Eaton said: “We have been making sure that we stay focused, that’s the main message we have spoken about this week.
“We are expecting a tough challenge. They caused us some trouble despite the score line last week, and they had some good chances and some good opportunities.”
York City Knights v South Wales Scorpions
Sunday 3pm at Huntington Stadium
York City Knights coach Gary Thornton has been dealt a major blow with the news that Kris Brining (ankle) and Ben Crane (knee) both face an extended period on the sidelines after suffering injuries against Whitehaven last week.
However, James Ford, Jason Golden and Lee Paterson should all return to the Knights squad for the visit of South Wales Scorpions.
Thornton said: “We are in a good bit of form at the minute, with three wins out of three, but we have to make sure we stay grounded.
“South Wales offer up a new challenge and we don’t know much about them. It’s unknown territory for us.
“We will have to try to do our homework on them, but I’m confident that if we carry on as we are then we can do well.”
Scorpions travel without Shaun Owens, who faces six weeks on the sidelines with a fractured hand. Scott Britton and Owain Davies are also doubtful, but Osian Phillips could make his first appearance of the year.
South Wales coach Mike Grady said: “This is a big test, especially after York’s win against Whitehaven last week.
“I was a bit disappointed with the way we collapsed towards the end of our game against Hemel Stags, but we hadn’t done that this season, but if the lads can keep their effort and enthusiasm then the results will come.”
Ahead of the game, the Scorpions’ longest serving player Ashley Bateman has now been officially named as the club’s vice-captain.