CLEARLY, everyone’s thoughts yesterday were with Shaun Lunt after it was confirmed the Hull KR captain has been admitted to hospital to receive treatment for a “serious” infection.
The 31-year-old, who played in the loss at Toulouse a week ago, is undergoing further tests but will not play again this season.
It is certainly a worrying time for the former England international and all his family, friends and colleagues but the club’s medical staff and player welfare manager are supporting him during his recovery.
Looking ahead, on a positive note, Rovers do hope Lunt – one of the best hookers in Super League and most popular figures in the sport – will be fit enough to return for pre-season in November.
In the meantime, of course, the East Yorkshire club has a crucial game tomorrow which will go a long way to deciding which division they will actually feature in.
After the debacle of letting an 18-0 lead slip to implode and lose 34-23 in France last Saturday, the pressure is now on Rovers.
We can’t worry about the score. If you start doing that you’re in trouble. You worry about the individual things. Everyone has a job to do in offence and defence and we’ve really hammered that this week: just do your job.Hull KR head coach Tim Sheens
A win then would have given them five victories from six and almost assured them of safety but now it is imperative they force another two points when Widnes Vikings arrive at Craven Park.
Furthermore, after Toronto Wolfpack’s dramtic 17-16 win at Leeds Rhinos last night, Rovers now know they have to win by at least 13 points to dislodge the Canadians from that valuable third spot which delivers a place in Super League for 2019,
If they do not, Tim Sheens’s side will be left in the dreaded Million Pound Game for a second time in three years and potentially joining already-relegated Widnes in the Championship.
The permutations going into this final round of Qualifiers were numerous with all top-six clubs still not knowing which division they would be in.
Salford Red Devils and Leeds are now safe but, speaking to The Yorkshire Post before the announcement about Lunt, Sheens was clear on what he now expects from his under-pressure side.
“We were very disappointed last week and the fans were too but rugby league is about getting back up and going again,” said the veteran Australian, who steered the Robins to automatic promotion via the Qualifiers just 12 months ago.
“It’s what sport is all about. Irrespective of what happened last week we’d have still needed to win this week so there is an element of ‘Let’s go out and do it.’
“Training has been really good. Being a home game is a big bonus, too, and not having to travel this week. That French trip takes a fair bit out of you.
“We can’t worry about the score. If you start doing that you’re in trouble. You worry about the individual things. Everyone has a job to do in offence and defence and we’ve really hammered that this week: just do your job.
“They really have to concentrate this week and I think the concentration in games like this be there. It has to be.
“I expect it from us in particular – as we have the most to lose.”
The gravity of the situation is such that Rovers postponed Wednesday’s Player of the Year awards dinner.
Tellingly, they did not do that in the build-up to the Million Pound Game against Salford Red Devils two years ago which, infamously, they lost.
Sheens explained: “With what’s going on this week the focus was always going to be on training and getting ready for the game.
“It’s a big, big game for the club. I appreciate the fact the club has given us the opportunity to just train and be ready for it.”
He accepts Widnes are more “dangerous” now given their relegation was confirmed with defeat in Toronto last week.
But the emphasis is on what his side produce and Rovers do have the experience of playing in these high-pressure contests.
Sheens added: “I suppose but it’s like any big game – you have to relieve the pressure on yourself, play well and not let the clock or scoreboard get under your skin.
“That happened to us against Toulouse. We got in front but then took our eye off the ball and they scored 34 unanswered points.
“Hopefully it’s a lesson learned.”
Back from injury, Maurice Blair comes into the 19-man squad in place of Lunt who, thankfully, was posting on social media yesterday to show he is in good spirits in hospital.
Australian Blair, however, will be assessed following this morning’s final training session, along with the likes of Robbie Mulhern and Joel Tomkins who are both named despite picking up knocks in France.