The 2017 Kingstone Press Championship is the ‘strongest’ competition for some time, according to Sheffield Eagles chief Mark Aston.
Although only in round four, his view is backed up by the results as newly promoted Rochdale and Toulouse have both had their successes in the early stages of the competition.
Eagles, despite three defeats from four, have also showed they have the capabilities to compete, after a surprise victory over Toulouse in round two.
The unpredictable nature of the start doesn’t surprise Aston who, alongside the vast majority of rugby league aficionados, have been proved right on one prediction, which sees Sunday’s opponents Hull Kingston Rovers lead the way after four wins from four.
“The competition is going to be the strongest that it has been for years” Aston said. “I think that is the reality with teams like Rochdale coming up, and doing what they have done, plus what Toulouse are doing as well.
“Let’s not forget that in round one Swinton were in front against London before they came back and scraped it. There are some great players in this competition, and people might overlook some sides, but Swinton are very dangerous too.”
Whilst Hull KR will be the favourites with the clear financial advantage of just coming out of Super League, the rest of the pack will all be keen to show they can compete. London have come on strong in recent weeks, whilst Featherstone have kept pace with Rovers by staying unbeaten.
“Obviously Hull KR have started well, they will be tough,” Aston added. “I think that Featherstone will go really well this season too, they have made a good start to back that up. There is tough competition all over this season, there are a lot of teams with real potential. Everyone will be talking about Hull KR, London, Featherstone and Toulouse. Any of the others, ourselves, Swinton, Halifax - we are capable of beating anybody, we have seen it.”
Meanwhile, Eagles will be facing another trip to Humberside on the weekend of March 18th and 19th after being drawn at Hull KR in round four of the Challenge Cup.
The Eagles have also moved their home game with Featherstone on Sunday 12th March to a 7.30pm kick off.