Doncaster RLFC: Cooke to ring changes for Challenge Cup tie

Liam Welham pictured in action at Halifax. Photo: Rob Terrace
Liam Welham pictured in action at Halifax. Photo: Rob Terrace

Paul Cooke will ring the changes for Sunday’s Tetley’s Challenge Cup fourth round tie with Hemel Stags.

Mike Kelly, Danny Nicklas and Mark Castle - who all picked up injuries in last weekend’s heavy defeat at Halifax - are all unlikely to be involved.

Second-rower Kelly could be out for a couple of months after suffering an abductor muscle injury.

Scrum-half Nicklas suffered a recurrence of the knee injury which kept him out of the Featherstone game, and will be booked in for a scan.

While prop Castle suffered an ankle ligament injury on his return from a shoulder problem.

Club captain Craig Robinson hopes to feature after pulling out of Sunday’s game, while out of favour full back Mick Butterfield looks set to be handed an opportunity to impress.

“Everyone who is fit and didn’t play against Halifax will play against Hemel,” said Cooke.

“We’ll see how Mark [Castle] is but I can’t see any of the three lads that got injured playing this weekend,” said Cooke.

Despite the 48-6 defeat at The Shay being the club’s biggest league defeat for four years, Cooke has not over-reacted.

“We went through the video on Tuesday and there were more positives than negatives,” he said.

“I don’t want to dilute what has been a fantastic start to the season.

“It wasn’t a poor performance by any means. Anyone just looking at the score will probably think it was a hammering.

“But I honestly believe that any team in the division who lost the players we lost, and had the same inter-change bench that we had after 30 minutes, would have been beaten convincingly given the way that Halifax played.

“We knew that they were a good side and we were just unfortunate to catch them on a day when they produced their best performance of the season. They were ruthless.”

Cooke gave his squad a Tuesday night off from training this week but was quick to stress he is not treating Hemel, of Championship One, lightly.

“We’ll come in on Saturday morning ready for Hemel and the challenge they’ll bring,” he said.

“I’ve had a look at a couple of their videos and we’ll be showing them the same amount of respect as we did Halifax.

“We’ll make changes, but we’ll pick a team which we feel confident will be good enough to win the game.”