Doncaster RLFC v Sheffield Eagles: Thornton expects Eagles to make things tough in friendly opener

Gary Thornton

Gary Thornton

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Doncaster RLFC will be aiming to clip Sheffield Eagles' wings in their first pre-season clash at the Keepmoat Stadium this weekend.

“It might only be a warm-up game but it's a derby and we'll also be playing for the South Yorkshire Cup which we always do when we play each other for the first time in a season,” said head coach Gary Thornton.

“The players, especially the former Sheffield players in the squad, are certainly champing at the bit to get out there and I’m also looking forward to seeing us back in action again.

“I don’t enjoy pre-season as a coach if I’m being honest, and a lot of the players don’t because it’s all about getting them fit and working on their strength and conditioning regimes.

“But when the league and cup games start I thrive on the pressure and, as I say, I’m really looking forward to playing games again and so are the squad.”

The game against the Eagles, who were based at the Keepmoat a couple of years ago after losing their Don Valley Stadium base, is the first of three successive home friendlies in the build-up to the start of the club’s 2017 campaign which kicks-off with a League One iPro Sport Cup first round tie away to holders Keighley Cougars on February 18.

Despite Eagles’ visit being followed by games against 2015 triple champions Leeds Rhinos and last season’s Challenge Cup winners Hull FC, Thornton thinks the game against their Championship neighbours could be the toughest.

“I’m not sure what sort of sides Leeds, who play Featherstone on the Friday night before coming here, or Hull, will play,” said Thornton.

“I’ll be speaking to their respective coaches but I imagine they’ll play a mixed side whereas Eagles, because they have far less players following their decision to go back to being a part-time club due to their financial problems last season, will probably field a full-strength squad.

“It promises to be a good work-out and I’m looking forward to seeing where we are in terms of preparation.

“We've managed to get in a lot more sessions with the ball than we did last year which is good.

“I'm also looking forward to seeing the new boys in action and Chris Heil, who has impressed during pre-season could be in line to start in the centres.

“In an ideal situation you would want everybody to be fit for the first pre-season game but, as I said earlier in the week, we've still got several players who are a couple of weeks off being ready.”