NORTH WALES CRUSADERS coach Anthony Murray admits he is relieved that his side are not in League One action this weekend.

A staggered start to the first round of opening fixtures sees just four games played across the division this weekend, with the Cru starting their campaign at Workington on February 24.

But after the club’s pre-season schedule saw several players pick up injuries, Murray is grateful of the additional recovery time.

He said: “I’m not really sure why the fixture list has been arranged in this way, possibly it’s because there are fewer teams in the division this season.

“But the fact we’ve got an extra week before a tough opening game is pretty welcome as far as we’re concerned.

“The three games we’ve played against Swinton, Widnes and Oldham have taken a bit of a toll and there are quite a few lads carrying knocks and others with more serous injuries.

“Obviously, we’ve been without Tommy (Johnson) and there are a few others out too like Ryan (Smith), and Earl (Hurst). And the fact that we’ve lost Joe Bate and Lee Hudson from the squad now too has disrupted things.”

Despite these setbacks, Murray is generally happy with his side’s progress in the last month.

“We improved steadily across the three games”, he added.

“The Swinton game was a bit hit and miss, but then against a full-strength Widnes I thought we stood up really well to them. We got the win against Coventry, which was great, but the most important thing is that the fitness levels are very high now and we look a much more physical team than last year.”

League One action starts with today’s clash between Newcastle Thunder and Doncaster, while tomorrow’s games see Coventry Bears host West Wales Raiders, Workington visit Oldham, and Whitehaven host Keighley.

Joe Bullock will fly the flag for all part-time Championship players in Sunday’s World Club Challenge.

The 26-year-old prop finished the 2018 season with Barrow but, after just two Super League appearances for Wigan, is set to face Australian champions Sydney Roosters in the biggest club match in rugby league.

Bullock, who scored his first Super League try in the win over Leeds, drew inspiration from fellow front rowers Alex Walmsley and Chris Hill, who made the step up from the Championship to Super League with St Helens and Warrington respectively and went on to star for England in the last World Cup.

“They’re the stories that you look at,” Bullock said. “It’s easy to forget sometimes that there’s a league outside Super League. So when you see players coming from the Championship and stepping up and being so successful, it gives you the confidence and belief that you can do it as well.”