STEVE Neale has a good idea of what Roose Pioneers can expect from Furness Raiders tonight – having been the man in the middle for their most recent College Rugby League game.

Pionners coach Neale refereed last Wednesday's match which saw the Raiders return to winning ways after the Christmas break, beating Hull-based Bishop Burton College 52-16 at Craven Park.

Having answered a plea on social media from Furness head coach Darren Carter for an opponent tonight after being given a walkover in the National College Cup, Neale now returns to the same venue in his coaching role.

The game comes early on in Roose's preparations for the 2017 Cumbria League season, having only returned to training less than a week ago, but Neale is looking forward to the match and knows it will be as much a test for his side as their opponents.

“We only had our first session last Thursday, but one of the lads saw the request on Twitter and I said that if everyone wanted to play we'd put our hands up, and within half an hour I had 25 players!” said Neale.

“I'm not too bothered about the result because it's just a case of getting some fitness inside us. I reffed them last Wednesday and I was quite impressed with them, so they'll more than give us a game and they'll probably start as favourites, to be honest!

“I reckon three or four of them could turn professional by the time they've finished there - there is certainly plenty of talent and they all know how to play.

“They were coached well - it wasn't just a case of throwing some talented players on the field and about individuals, it was a team performance.”

It will be something of a new-look team Roose expect to field tonight, with Neale in the process of rebuilding the team after a year which saw them finish bottom of the Cumbria League with just four wins from 19 matches.

But an influx of youngsters for the first session of pre-season has given him plenty of encouragement, while players such as Cumbria county half-back Adam Batty remain to help lead the side as well.

“In recent seasons, we've struggled a little bit for numbers, but we've come back for pre-season, got a few more faces and I can give them a run without fearing the result,” said Neale.

“There were about five or six teenagers who turned up for training last week I haven't really got to know, but I can throw them in without fear and that will be good for me.

“We've got a lot of old players hanging on filling the numbers up and we're in desperate need of teenagers and players in their early 20s coming through.

“Hopefully we'll be able to do that and I was encouraged by that last week, and I'm quite happy to throw them in and I'm looking forward to seeing what happens. I'm looking forward to this season, to be honest.”