BATLEY BULLDOGS coach Craig Lingard says his players have a big opportunity to test themselves this weekend when Hull FC visit the Fox’s Biscuits Stadium.
Hull are the first of two Super League sides to visit in consecutive weeks, with a clash against Huddersfield Giants also to come as the Bulldogs finish their pre-season preparations.
Ahead of the meeting with the Black and Whites (Sunday, kick-off 2pm), with whom a proposed dual-registration deal fell through last week, Lingard hopes his squad will grasp the chance to show their abilities against top-quality opposition.
“It’s a great opportunity for these players to test themselves against some of the best in Super League,” he said.
“I think Hull will be challenging for the title so it’ll be a really good test and if they can perform against Hull then they can do it against anyone in our division.
“By all accounts, they’re going to come with a full-strength team. It’s going to be a tough game but the thing that has pleased me most so far (in pre-season) is their attitude to defence.”
But he warned: “If they haven’t got a good attitude this week they could have 60 or 70 points put past them.”
There was plenty for Lingard to consider following Batley’s second pre-season fixture last weekend, as they went down to a 16-12 defeat at League One outfit Hunslet.
“I thought we started off fairly strong in the first 15-20 minutes of the game,” said the coach. “I thought we controlled the game and our completion rate was better than it was against Dewsbury (a draw on Boxing Day).
“Then I think we just lost a bit of focus and dropped off our intensity. Hunslet are a really good League One side who will be challenging for the top four this season, they put out their strongest side and it showed that if you lose concentration against anybody, you’re going to get punished.
“I’m slightly disappointed with losing a bit of focus but this is what these pre-season friendlies are about; learning about individuals, learning about your different units within the team and seeing where you need to improve. I wouldn’t expect us to be hitting our straps at this stage of the season, only the second friendly in, but there are a lot of areas to work on.”
As such, the Bulldogs will continue to field experimental sides in their final two friendlies as they continue to search for the right formula ahead of the campaign.
Lingard said: “We’ll continue to look at different combinations because we’re still not 100 per cent sure what our starting 13 or even our 17 will be. We’ll continue to look at different people and different combinations and see what we think will be the best combination for us going against Featherstone.
“It might disappoint fans that we’re not winning by 20 or 30 points every week but they are friendlies and hopefully they will benefit the team in the long term.”
Trialists Dom Horn and Sam Bowring both made their Bulldogs debuts last week, as did Shaun Lunt and new signing Anthony Bowman, while Joe Taira made his first appearance of pre-season following illness. Lewis Galbraith (ankle) is not expected to be back in contention until the Huddersfield tie.