Hemel Stags v York City Knights (2.30pm)
Hemel lost 38-12 at home to London Skolars on Good Friday and are still chasing their first win. Coach Troy Perkins said: “I thought we started the game against Skolars really well. We were on the front foot and scored first but a few crucial errors gave them field position and a couple of soft tries from kicks. There were some positives from the game but we weren’t ruthless enough when we were in the right areas of the field. I was encouraged by the performance but disappointed we didn’t get the result.
“On Sunday against York we’ve just got to build on what we did against Skolars. York are unbeaten and they’ll be coming down to build on their wins. We just have to put in a performance and see where that takes us. We’ve played well for 40 minutes; we need to play well for 80 minutes to give ourselves a chance of competing against a good York team.”
York won 46-16 at Doncaster on Good Friday and beat Rochdale in the iPro Sport Cup last week. Coach James Ford said: “I’m really happy with what we’re doing at the minute. It’s a new group and the players are getting better game by game.
“Hemel will be a different kind of challenge. We’ll go into the game as favourites and will be there to be shot at. I’m sure they’ll be up for it; we’ve had some tough games against them over the last couple of years. It’s a difficult place to go with the field being so narrow and there’s the long bus journey. We’ll have to make sure we focus on ourselves and our standards and hopefully we’ll come away with the points.”
Second row Ryan Mallinder is likely to be out for a couple of weeks with an ankle injury. Prop Brett Waller and scrum-half Richie Wilson come back into the squad.
Coventry Bears v Barrow Raiders (3.00pm)
Coventry Bears picked up their first victory of the season when they won 29-28 at Gloucester All Golds on Good Friday. Coach Tom Tsang said: “The win was very good for us. We’d had a pretty tough start to the season and in the week we had off we talked about being a bit more resilient and playing with a bit more grit when we went behind in games because we seemed a little bit fragile.
“The most pleasing thing from the Gloucester game was that when we went behind by a couple of tries early on, we showed a bit of that grit and determination. Being able to fight our way in gave us the confidence to go on and win the game. There are still improvements to be made but it was a bit of a confidence-booster for the boys.
“Barrow are obviously going to be strong; they’ve got a good mix of youth and experience so they will be a tough side to play. After the draw against Newcastle they’ll be wanting to get a couple of extra points this week but we’re at home, we’re coming off the back of a win, we’ve had a good couple of weeks training so hopefully we can take the Gloucester result and build on that.”
Prop Trae O’Sullivan is likely to be out for six weeks with a broken foot and full-back Charlie O’Mara has a wrist injury but half back Craig White is back and new signing, second row Grant Beecham, also comes into contention.
Barrow drew 24-24 with Newcastle on Good Friday. Coach Paul Crarey said: “We were disappointed with the draw but it was a fair result, Newcastle played really well. The big thing is we’ve got to be prepared for Coventry. Against Gloucester they were very impressive, they’ve got some quality players and Tom Tsang has got them playing really well. They’re full of confidence and if you give them ball – like we did against Newcastle – we’ll be in trouble so we want a good clinical performance. All the southern teams are improving massively.”
Prop Anthony Bate and back row Danny Morrow both return to the squad.
Doncaster v North Wales Crusaders (3.00pm)
Doncaster lost to London Skolars in the iPro Sport Cup last week and have something of an injury crisis. Coach Gary Thornton said: “We’ve picked up a load of injuries. We’ve got the spine of the team missing at the moment. But take nothing away from London Skolars, I thought they played very well on Sunday and deserved the win.
“It’s a good job we’ve got a reasonably large squad otherwise we’d have been struggling to put a team out on Sunday. We’re relying on the younger guys who we were hoping would be more in development this year.
“North Wales is going to be tough – I know they’ve got their problems with losing players. Obviously we’re at home and that’s going to be a big advantage for us. We’re looking at this as being a game where we can get back on track.”
North Wales lost 42-16 at home to Rochdale on Good Friday. Coach Anthony Murray said: “Doncaster have had a lot of injuries but they’re still a quality side. Gary Thornton is a very experienced coach and they are certainly going to be one of the sides to beat in the competition, I’ve no doubt.
“When they start getting players back they’ll find some form – I’m just hoping it won’t be this weekend. We’ve had a couple of experienced players missing and hopefully we can give a better account of ourselves than we did against Rochdale. We’re just looking to try and keep improving each week.”
Half-back Andy Moulsdale and second row Stephen Wild return to the squad
Keighley Cougars v Oxford (3.00pm)
After beating Oxford 54-14 in the iPro Sport Cup last week, Keighley Cougars entertain them again in the league. Coach Paul March said: “When you play the same team two weeks running, you’re always going to be complacent in one of the games. It’s up to me to make sure we’re not.
“We made a number of changes to the starting line-up last week and rested people. We will shake it up this week by bringing them back in, so hopefully we’ll be a full strength and raring to go.”
Oxford are still looking for their first league win of the season. Coach Tim Rumford said: “We made a lot of ground in terms of development of some players last year and I was really looking forward to seeing those guys get a run of games this year but they have been struck down by injuries. It’s frustrating because we’ve gone back a step and had to go back to guys who just aren’t ready for Rugby League at this level.
“It’s a baptism of fire for a lot of them and when you’re up at Keighley two weeks on the trot it’s character-building! Let’s hope we get a happy ending this week. As a minimum I’m looking to certainly close the gap and be more competitive and stay in the game as long as we can. If we’re still in it with 15/20 minutes to go, we’ll be trying to pull off an upset.”
Newcastle Thunder v Hunslet Hawks (3.00pm)
Newcastle drew 24-24 at Barrow on Good Friday and lost 36-28 at Gloucestershire All Golds in the iPro Sport Cup. Coach Mick Mantelli said: “We didn’t compete that well down at Gloucester but I thought it was a very gritty draw over at Barrow on Good Friday. We’re trying to build on that. We had a few players at Gloucester so we’ll get a few back this week.
“We were very disappointing in our last home game against North Wales so we want to make sure we put in a better performance this time.”
Hunslet lost 24-16 at home to Keighley on Good Friday and are still looking for their first win. Coach Matt Bramald said: “I wasn’t overly impressed with how we played for 55 minutes. We played for about 20 minutes in total but left ourselves too much to do.
“In all our league games we’ve played sporadically. We’ve had decent periods but we need to knit a few of those periods together into an 80-minute performance. We’ll need to be right on top of our game going up to Newcastle to get anything out of it.”
Half-back Danny Ansell, second row Ben Crane and prop Michael Haley all come back into the squad.
Rochdale Hornets v Gloucestershire All Golds (3.00pm)
Despite being unbeaten in the league, Rochdale Hornets lost 40-16 to York at home in the iPro Sport Cup. Coach Alan Kilshaw said: “We were poor on the day and made a lot of errors and beat ourselves. The senior players who played are hurting a little bit and will be looking to rectify that with a response this weekend.
“Gloucester are a good side, they’re a very dangerous team with ball in hand. We’ve got to make sure we’re turning the ball over on our terms and not giving them that opportunity to attack our goal line because they are certainly a team who can punish you.”
Prop Samir Tahraoui will miss the game after picking up a one-match ban but centre Mike Ratu returns, as does wing Dale Bloomfield and possibly forward James Tilley
Gloucester lost 29-28 to Coventry on Good Friday but beat Newcastle 36-28 at home in the iPro Sport Cup. Coach Lee Greenwood said: “We are inconsistent in games, which is something that caused us a lot of problems last year. That’s the challenge we need to overcome.
“Against Newcastle it followed a similar trait; in patches we looked really good and then went through a 10/15 minute patch when we couldn’t do anything right and when you’re defending it takes a lot out of you but I can’t fault the effort. If they come with that attitude and effort every week we’ll do alright.
“Coventry was a bad one but looking back, players at this level struggle with three games in eight days. Rochdale are a good side. We’ve got to go there with a plan in place and do our best.”
South Wales Scorpions v Toulouse Olympique XIII (3.00pm)
South Wales Scorpions got their first win of the season at Oxford on Good Friday. Coach Phil Carleton said: “The boys worked really hard on the day and with the win, a little bit of pressure comes off everyone and just sets the tone for the rest of the year.
“We’re in good spirits at the moment but we face a hell of a test this weekend. Watching their results so far they’ve been pretty impressive but you want to pit yourself against the best. We’re looking forward to it, they’ll get some hospitality but also a bit of hostility as well!”
Toulouse Olympique haven’t played for three weeks. Coach Sylvain Houles said: “It was nice to have a little bit of a rest. Two weekends off which is three weeks without a game is probably a little bit too much but it gave us a chance to fix some things after the All Golds game. They scored five tries which means we have to fix a few things like around the rucks – in the last 10 minutes we weren’t happy with our defence and our organisation.
“It gives us a good chance to go to South Wales and fix that and build for the big one against Leigh in the Challenge Cup.”