Dons set to launch 2016 season in iPro Sports Cup
The Dons get their 2016 campaign underway on Sunday when making their debut in the iPro Sport Cup against North Wales Crusaders.
The game is one of two knockout ties - they will be in Challenge Cup action next weekend - prior to their opening League One clash on March 6.
“I’m looking forward to Sunday’s game,” said head coach Gary Thornton .
“It’s a competition we want to do well in but it will also serve as a marker in relation to our league campaign.
“Make no mistake, North Wales will present us with a real challenge and I expect them to be in the top five or six teams next season.”
Thornton, who took in the Hunslet-Keighley friendly at the weekend, caught the Welsh side in action at Batley a couple of weeks ago and came away impressed.
“They have got a big pack, two crafty half-backs and two Welsh internationals out wide so we know we are going to have to play well to beat them,” he said.
Crusaders, who knocked the Dons, then a Championship side, out of the Challenge Cup last season, completed their pre-season campaign with a game against Gloucester at the weekend.
Thornton took his squad over to Hull on Tuesday night where they took on the Super League leaders’ newly-formed reserve side in a semi-contested 3x20 minute work-out.
In addition to helping him decide the odd position where he was still undecided, he used the game to run the rule over a couple of players who could be available this weekend as part of the dual-registration tie-up should stand-off Jordan Howden miss out.
Although the former Castleford half-back hasn’t played, or trained much, since the club’s first friendly, there have been signs of an improvement in the last week or so.
A scan on his hip injury yesterday is unlikely to influence Thornton’s decision as to whether to select him.
“I’ve got other options and it’s likely to be a late decision either way,” said Thornton, who will have skipper Kyle Kesik available for the first time this year.
Strong-running Prop Mark Castle is making good progress after missing the three warm-up games but it is more likely he’ll make his Doncaster debut third time around the following week.
Second-rower Mike Kelly, one of only eight players still at the club from last season, is still ruled out following a knee operation last year.