GATESHEAD Thunder’s much-changed squad kick off their pre-season preparations tomorrow against Super League visitors Hull Kingston Rovers.
Newcastle Falcons’ Kingston Park stadium will stage the 3pm kick-off, with head coach Kevin Neighbour hoping he can tempt some union supporters into sampling the 13-man code.
Neighbour said: “Kingston Park is a great place to play rugby, and it is great that we have been able to stage the game over there on such a good pitch and such a wonderful facility.
“With the Falcons having no game this weekend hopefully we can get a few of their fans to come down and have a look at rugby league, and as well as ourselves they will have the opportunity to see some Super League players in action.” A busy off-season wheeling and dealing has seen Thunder acquiring the services of former Hull KR man Nick Johnson, among others, with Neighbour hoping his top-flight experience can bolster a side which has ended the last three seasons rock-bottom of Co-operative Championship One.
All of his new men will be available for tomorrow’s encounter apart from Ben Hardcastle, with the former Hull FC half-back out for a month with a broken bone in his hand.
“Seeing how we work together as a team is going to be the main thing, especially with it being our first run-out of the pre-season schedule,” said Neighbour, whose side won only a single league game last year.
Up against a Hull KR outfit consisting mainly of their junior and fringe players, the Robins have still included a sprinkling of senior stars including Australian back-rower Rhys Lovegrove and New Zealand test prop Evarn Tuimavave.
Their head coach Craig Sandercock said: “All of the young boys have trained hard, and there are some opportunities in this team.
“If they’re good enough then they’ll be presented with those opportunities, and the young kids who put their hand up this weekend will get a chance against Wigan next weekend.”