Preview: Doncaster RLFC v Barrow Raiders

Paul Cooke
Paul Cooke

Player coach Paul Cooke is set to return to action in Sunday’s Championship clash against Barrow at the Keepmoat Stadium.

The stand-off was one of several regulars rested by the club – a decision taken in conjuction with general manager Carl Hall - for Sunday’s Challenge Cup defeat at Warrington.

“If there had been no relegation I’d have fielded a stronger side and had more of a dig,” said Cooke.

“But finishing in the top eight is the main priority.

“We’ve not got a big squad and we’ve got to rest players in games because we don’t have a weekend off until the Challenge Cup final in late August,

“I gave the players the night off on Tuesday. We did the same in the build-up to the Sheffield game.

“It’s not that we are taking anybody lightly but the players need some time to recover, especially after a game like Sunday.”

Hull-based youngster Rich Wilkinson, who partnered on-loan Matty Wildie for the first time against Wolves, is expected to make way for Cooke despite showing promise.

“Rich is learning all the time and I thought he showed some decent touches and is a work in progress,” said Cooke.

“He’s got some ability but we’ve just got to channel it in the right areas.”

With scrum-half Danny Nicklas still out with a knee injury, Wildie is expected to keep his place in the side.

“Matty’s come in and done really well,” said Cooke.

Prop Mark Castle could also return but fellow front-rower Russ Spiers was a doubt earlier in the week with a suspected broken hand sustained in Sunday’s game.

Second-rower Mike Jones, injured in the opening minutes of the game at Halifax in late March, is back in light training and is hoping to be able to join in with the rest of the squad next week.

Barrow were promoted to the Championship the same season as the Dons.

But the Raiders face a battle to avoid relegation after making a poor start to the season and currently prop up the table.

Having being knocked off the Challenge Cup trail they were without a game last weekend.

After going through the video of the Warrington game with his squad this week, Cooke is keen to move on.

“It’s vital that we don’t let Sunday’s defeat affect us because we’ve got some big games coming up,” he said.