Sheens switches things up for Leeds challenge

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Head coach Tim Sheens has admitted there will be some changes to his line-up for tomorrow’s match against Leeds Rhinos but that he’s keeping faith with the majority of his side to improve on their opening round performance.

The Rovers boss revealed in today’s pre-match press conference that half back Chris Atkin will make his first Betfred Super League appearance against the defending champions tomorrow night after being selected in place of Matty Marsh, whilst forward Jordan Walne will also come onto the bench for the clash at Elland Road.

Those changes come after Rovers named an unchanged 19-man squad for the game following last week’s defeat to Wakefield Trinity, with Sheens saying he has a lot of confidence in his side to show their true quality this week.

“Chris will come in for Matty this week and he’ll get a shot. Those two are pretty neck and neck in terms of who will partner Danny McGuire in the halves and I expect we’ll see them switch around a bit over the coming weeks.

“But we’re going with Chris for this one because I think he’s more suited to what we’ll need against Leeds. He’s a bit more dominant than Matty and a bit more vocal and his kicking game is probably a little stronger. He’s a left-footed kicker as well, so that opens us more options for us against Leeds which will be important. Their back three but particularly the two wingers carry the ball really well so finding the right areas with our kicking game will be key. It’s also forecast to be wet so that makes your kicking game even more important.

“There’s been a lot of talk about Danny this week with it being Leeds, but it’s important that we share the ball between the two half backs and give both sides of the field some ball. I’ll be looking to both Danny and Chris to take the pressure off each other and not to try too hard. We obviously want them to put the effort in but with it being Danny’s old club I’m sure he’ll want to prove a point, and this is Chris’ biggest test so far, we want cool heads.

“We’ll also bring Jordan Walne onto the bench to give us a few more options in the middle. He’s comfortable playing through the middle and that gives us three middle players on the bench instead of two. Jordan can also cover the back row very well as we saw in the friendlies so he gives us a bit more against the Leeds pack of forwards.

“We’ve worked very hard on our execution this week because that let us down against Wakefield. We missed a lot of opportunities which was frustrating but on another day we put those chances away. I think we are a pretty skilful side normally, so it’s an area we can improve and I’m confident that we will.

“I think the full side will be better for that game. We’re quite a new team which is having to completely change the way we play and we’ll be better for that match and one or two players getting some more game time under their belts. We’ve got a pretty consistent side out this week so that should help.”

Tomorrow marks a tough opening test away from home for Rovers against the current Betfred Super League champions, with Sheens identifying some areas where his side will need to be much better to compete with the Rhinos.

“It’s their unpredictability that makes them so dangerous. They play quickly off the back of an offload or a fast play-the-ball and a lot of that comes from the 9. They’ve got some big athletic players and Richie Myler gives them a good kicking game and some field position.

“They’ve got a lot of threat and they got a good win against Warrington last week but I don’t think they were at their best. In fact, listening to what Brian McDermott said, I don’t think he was particularly pleased with some aspects of their performance because Warrington had plenty of chances to win that.

“We know we need to improve but we expect Leeds to as well so we have to really switch on.”