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Webster previews Rochdale clash

Assistant coach James Webster looks ahead to Sunday’s top-of-the-table clash against Rochdale Hornets at the Crown Oil Arena.

Both teams go into the game unbeaten in the Kingstone Press Championship with two wins from two at the start of the 2017 campaign, with a Rochdale side newly promoted from League One sitting top of the tree after a blistering opening fortnight.

With many pundits surprised by the form of the Hornets, Webster told what Rovers fans can expect from this week’s opponents.

“Rochdale have looked good, I can tell you that. Their first win against Dewsbury at home was outstanding and then they toughed it out in poor conditions against Bradford last week. They thoroughly deserve to be where they are.

“They look like they’ve got a very good coach and he’s put some really nice plays into their system. The play with an attacking style with the ball and they look like they’ve got some good combinations going. Rochdale have linked up with Warrington as well so that has allowed them to do a lot of sessions against them.

“They’re a well prepared team, they make it tough for you to play against them and they look a settled side who really know their jobs.”
Webster added: “They’re a big physical team and they’ve mixed up their game well. They’ve got some good dummy half runners and a couple of monstrous front-rowers. They’re very tough to tackle and hard to handle, especially close to the line.

“We have to get better in how we deal with that which is something we identified a long time ago and we’re working on it. It will take time for us to get to where we want to be, particularly defensively, so at the moment we just want to improve each week.

“We’re going to have to be good in all facets of the game. We have to turn up and play very well to get the result, we know that.”

Hull Kingston Rovers go into Sunday’s match on the back of a comprehensive victory over Bradford Bulls and a narrower 28-22 win over London Broncos last week following a performance that frustrated head coach Tim Sheens.

Disappointed with his team’s attitude defensively after the game, the Rovers boss demanded improvements from his troops – sentiments which have been echoed by Webster.

“We’ve trained really well this week and really physically to prepare for what’s going to be a tough game at the weekend.

“It’s a physical competition, the Championship. At times, it’s a league that’s not played at the same speed as Super League but that physicality shines through. If you try and just get through games like we did against London, then you get sloppy. We’ve trained hard so we’re in the best shape we can be for what will be a really physical game for sure.

“I think some people outside of the group have been unrealistic with their expectations, particularly so early in the season. To my knowledge, no team since Huddersfield in 2002 have gone through this league undefeated. We lost some games back in 2006 despite looking dominant for periods, Leigh lost some last year and Castleford lost some when they went up.

“It’s a tough league and physically the players that play week in, week out in the Championship are just as strong as those in Super League. With the seven-day turnarounds you get, teams are able to prepare properly and although it’s not always played at the pace you see on your televisions every Thursday or Friday night in Super League, you still have to turn up ready to play each week otherwise you’ll get found out.

“Tim has said from the start that we’ll still be developing as a side six to eight weeks into the season, but we’ve won two from two so we’re in a good place. Defensively, we’ve not had the chance to do too much work on that in the off season with players arriving late so we’ll continue to improve there and in attack we’d like to be sharper but there’s some good signs that we can score points.”

Photo: Webster previews Rochdale clash