HULL KR head coach Tim Sheens is looking forward to an “interesting battle” between two new-look spines when his side host Salford Red Devils in Friday’s Qualifiers opener.
The rivals clashed in Super League only last month when Rovers vanquished their struggling opponents 52-22.
But both clubs have recruited since in order to strengthen their hand knowing a battle against relegation was looming.
Rovers signed former Kangaroos stand-off Todd Carney, who played under Sheens at Salford previously and debuted off the bench in the recent derby win at Hull FC.
The Red Devils, meanwhile, won the race to sign talented Australian No6 Jackson Hastings following his release by Manly Sea Eagles plus little-known hooker Joey Lussick also from the Sydney-based NRL club.
They are both set to debut at KCOM Lightstream Stadium on Friday.
Sheens says Carney, 32, will start alongside ex-England stand-off Danny McGuire, the 35-year-old who returns after missing the Hull game through suspension.
It means Chris Atkin, the former Swinton Lions half-back who has played the majority of the season and earned an England Knights call-up, will switch to a dummy-half role probably off the bench.
“Toddy’s had a couple of weeks training now and understands the calls now,” said Sheens, Carney coming in to the squad late at Hull like Ben Crooks and Craig Hall who both arrived on loan from Leigh Centurions and did not even train before starring in the win.
“He basically came in (from Australia) on the previous Sunday, was still out of it on the Monday, the Tuesday he did a little bit and we played Friday.
“He did a little bit of ball work Thursday but nothing much to speak about.
“He was nowhere near understanding everything that was going on - a bit all at sea with the calls like Crooks and Hall - but we only played him 20-30 minutes just before and after half-time.
“He’s much more up to speed right now, though, and he’s trained really well.
“Him and Danny (McGuire) are smart, smart people.
“It’s going to be an interesting battle in the two sets of halves as they’re a quality group and then a young nine - I think Josh Wood will start and Lussick will come on - with Hastings up against Danny and Rob Lui against his old team-mate Toddy.
“It should be an interesting game.
“I’m happy to have the spine we have as well as it improves our kicking game.
“It improves our kicking options as well which is real important in these sorts of games as it’s all about field position, good defence and controlling that ball.”
On Atkin, Sheens added: “He covers full-back, half-back and hooker but he’ll definitely will be playing middle - hooker.
“He’s got a turn of pace, same as Lussick has, and again it will be two very good spines and some smart people there.
“I think it will be a big night for defences to handle as both sides of the ruck are dangerous.
“They look stronger, too, with their squad but we’ve got Junior Vaivai back and that adds some strength to our left edge now with the right edge with Ben Crooks and Craig Hall so we’re looking a lot more dangerous on both sides of the field.”