Sheffield Eagles poser over semi-final line-up

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Sheffield Eagles face a tough call of whether to stick with a host of young performers ahead of their crunch Championship Shield semi-final against Batley.

Director of rugby Mark Aston has benched a number of his experienced operators in recent weeks following some up and down performances.

Aston has put his faith in loan stars Liam Johnson, George Milton, Jonah Cunningham and Liam Cooper, whilst home grown Ryan Millar has also been given an extended run at full-back.

Hooker Greg Burns was also recalled for last weekend’s semi-final dress rehearsal, as Aston continued to give a raft of young players the opportunity to impress.

Aston says none of his young brigade have boosted their chances of a semi-final spot as he looks to plot his side’s progression to back-to-back Shield finals.

“I have been impressed with a number of them,” Aston explained.

“I thought Liam Johnson was one of our best players against Rochdale. He’s been strong defensively and has run with the ball with purpose.

“George Milton has got stuck in, and always does. We have seen some of Liam Cooper too. He has been aggressive and tough, as has young Jonah Cunningham – they have shown that they can be strong defensively. They have all impressed at some stage.”

The likes of Simon Brown, above, and Remy Marginet have found themselves out in the cold in recent weeks, whilst Elliot Minchella, Matty James and Menzie Yere have all been managing injuries as the season enters the final weeks.

Aston must now decide whether to recall his experienced heads or stick with the youngsters as the Eagles look for their first victory over Batley this season.

“I have been quite honest with the senior guys,” he continued.

“I am still challenging some of them. There are people putting their hat in the ring for a semi-final spot. You would expect the lads who have got 200 or so appearances behind them, who are 27 and above, to be the consistent performers, but in a lot of cases that hasn’t happened. On paper we are still a strong team, and on our day we have a pack of forwards capable of beating anybody.”