Every game’s a cup final says Doncaster Knights skipper

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KNIGHTS skipper Matt Challinor says the club has “nine cup finals” left to preserve their Championship status, starting with tonight’s huge basement battle with London Scottish.

Doncaster have lost their last five games in all competitions and are still rooted to the bottom of the table with more than half the season gone.

Tonight they welcome a Scottish side to Castle Park (7.45pm) who could move clear of the bottom three with a win - and Challinor is well aware of the importance of this evening.

“The way I see the rest of the season is that we have nine cup finals, starting this weekend,” said the powerful second row.

“If they win this weekend they will pull themselves away from the chasing three, so it is a huge game for both sides.

“Scottish have some big players, a lot of experience and come off the back of some good recent results.

“But the home advantage should hopefully work in our favour.

“One of our goals at the start of the season was to make Castle Park a fortress and while we haven’t quite achieved that, every team that has come here has not had it easy.

“We certainly haven’t been beaten by many points at home all season.”

Challinor admits that recent results have taken their toll on confidence levels but feels the squad have made good progress under new director of rugby Clive Griffiths, who replaced Brett Davey at the helm in November.

“The issue is maybe confidence at the moment,” said Challinor.

“We have some fantastic players, good enough to be right up at the top of the league, but it hasn’t quite happened for us this season so far.

“Saying that, I’m quietly confident about tonight, we have some players coming back in and there is more than enough experience in the squad.

“As far as preparation goes off the pitch, it has been better in the last few weeks than it has been all season.

“The lads are really focused and Clive has put a lot of structure into the side.

“We know exactly what needs doing, but it is now down to us to take responsibility.”

Griffiths has announced his side with a host of crowd favourites returning. It is another strong squad, following a period of alterations in search of the most effective combinations as the Knights seek to return to winning ways.

A highly recognisable forward pack will aim to carry the fight to the visitors; the one notable difference sees Will Hafu make his second start of the season at hooker after recovering from injury. Elsewhere Challinor returns to the starting line-up to lead his troops from the front.

Joe Bedford and Connor Braid make up the half back pairing with Tom Luke and Will Simpson selected in the midfield. Tyson Lewis and Dougie Flockhart will look to inject some serious pace from the wings, with fully fit Michael Keating continuing his impressive return from injury at full-back.

n Knights line-up: Michael Keating, Dougie Flockhart, Will Simpson, Tom Luke, Tyson Lewis, Connor Braid, Joe Bedford, Tom Davies, Will Hafu, Tomas Francis, Matt Challinor (capt), Dominic Parsons, Adam Kettle, Jethro Rawling, Chris Planchant

Replacements: Jerry Cronin, Jack Bergmanas, Brian McGovern, Sam Pailor, Chris Hallam, Dante Mama, Jamie Lennard.