Featherstone Rovers: Preparation key as coach James Webster targets historic moment

FEATHERSTONE Rovers head coach James Webster says he has been preparing his side for the complexities of the Million Pound Game in France – without them even realising it.

The Championship side face leaders Toulouse Olympique XIII in Sunday’s promotion decider with the Featherstone chief declaring it the biggest game in the West Yorkshire club’s history.

Two years on from losing at Toronto Wolfpack at the same stage, the part-timers are seeking to finally earn a place in Super League for the first time.

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It will be the first occassion they have travelled to France since the onset of the pandemic; part-time clubs have not visited Toulouse due to the need to isolate afterwards and the impact on their jobs outside of the sport.

However, Batley Bulldogs became the first club to do so last Saturday in a semi-final they lost 51-12.

Featherstone must undertake the same prospect but Webster said: “We’ve practiced for it already. We went to London (Broncos) a month ago.

“I didn’t tell my players we were practicing for it (the Million Pound Game).

“But we already had second place nailed down so we travelled on the day – we didn’t go the day before – we met in a room like we’ll have to do in Toulouse, and at a certain time that we thought we would land.

Featherstone celebrate a try against York in their 1895 Cup final win at Wembley earlier this year. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com

“We locked ourselves down like the protocols decree when we got there so we had something to draw back and something to think about.

“As much as we can in a Covid year, we have planned for this day. We’ve had to get through many hurdles to get here but it would have been remiss of myself not to have prepared my players for what’s going to be a little bit different.

“Saying that, it doesn’t faze me personally; it hasn’t been spoken about as a team.

“We’re ready and we need to go over there and take them on.”

Featherstone Rovers' head coach, James Webster. Picture courtesy of Dec Hayes.

Unbeaten Toulouse are overwhelming favourites even though the only league game Featherstone lost this season was a 23-6 home defeat against the French side in August.

Webster, whose team have already won the 1895 Cup at Wembley this term, admits he cannot comprehend the magnitude of what it would mean for Rovers if they did win.

“All I can say is it’s probably the biggest game in Featherstone’s history,” said the Australian, who, as a player, helped Hull KR earn promotion with a Grand Final win in 2006.

“I don’t want to downgrade 1983 or 1967 and 1973 – the three Challenge Cup final Wembley wins – but Featherstone have been knocking on the door for so long. To get back into the top flight would be a huge achievement. I’ve been in this country 17 years and never seen a part-time team promoted.

Featherstone thank the fans for their support after victory over York in the AB Sundecks 1895 cup final. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com

“We’d make history and it’d be an absolutely massive achievement for us to do that.

“Do I think people in and around this town deserve it and have waited a long time and have supported rugby league in general for a long time? Yes, I do.

“I’m hoping for them that we can get the win and then next season they can see some of the big teams roll into town.”

Meanwhile, one Championship fixture will be televised live in a regular Monday night slot next season as part of a new two-year broadcast deal agreed with Premier Sports.

It brings more than 30 live Championship matches while seven Challenge Cup ties will also be live plus two quarter-finals.