Dewsbury Rams hooker Robbie Ward insists the team is full of confidence ahead of Sunday’s clash with table-toppers Toulouse, despite a momentum-breaking postponement last weekend.
The Rams headed into the match against Barrow searching for a third consecutive win, but snowy conditions meant the game was unplayable, while Toulouse recorded a comprehensive victory over Rochdale.
But Ward, who has played a vital part for the team so far this campaign, believes the break from action could actually benefit the Rams.
“I have to be honest and say the Barrow postponement was a little bit of a disruption because we wanted to go up there and get the two points,” he said.
“We wanted to carry on our good form, we were confident of a victory, but obviously they had to call it off for the safety of everyone involved.
“In a way, having the game off probably has done us some good, because some of the lads are recovering from a few knocks.
“So now we are going into the Toulouse game really fit and ready for battle.”
Following a mixed campaign in 2017, Toulouse have strengthened significantly for the new season and have eyes firmly fixed on a top four spot.
“Toulouse are always a tough team to play, and the last two times we have been to France we haven’t performed to the standards that we wanted to show.
“However, we have had two brilliant results against them at home and we know that if we are on it, we can go out there and beat them.
“Last year, we muscled up against them and got stuck right in. I think against teams like that, where they like to chuck the ball about, you need to be strong against them.
“They like to play expansive rugby, so one of the weaknesses they have is that when they come up against a team like us, who like to get stuck in, they sometimes don’t like it.
“Obviously, they are a full time side and so they’ll no doubt be expecting to come here and win.
“They had a poor end to last season, where they didn’t make the top four and some part time clubs did,” Ward continued.
“They have had a good start to the season, and I think they’ll be looking at these types of games believing that definitely need to win them.
“They are a physical, strong pack and they have signed a number of quality props before the start of this season.
“We know that the game is not going to be easy, but hopefully if we keep our defence tight, work hard and score the tries we need, we’ll get the win.”
Meanwhile, Ward says he isn’t surprised by Dewsbury’s own positive start to the campaign.
“I think some people will be surprised with the start that we have made, but the players aren’t,” he said.
“This year, we are aiming to finish as high in the table as we can, and a good start is what we needed to make.
“Neil has built a good squad here with some solid players who know what needs to be done.
“Last season’s start wasn’t good enough, but by the end of the year we were beating these top sides.
“We are quietly confident as players that we will be up and around there come the end of the year.
“People may look at us and say they’ll drop off and be somewhere from lower mid-table to bottom end, but we’ll just keep going about our business, keep our heads down, and just focus on the next game.
“We said at the start of the season that we wanted to make our home stadium a fortress and so far that has been very much the case.
“Hopefully, it can be a fortress again come Sunday against Toulouse.”
Ward also hailed the Rams’ tackling efforts so far this season, which have established the team as the competition’s defensive side.
“We have conceded only 36 points this season, the lowest of any side in the division, which shows how good our defence has been this year so far.
“If you have a good defence in games then you are always likely to come out of it the winners, and that’s how we are starting every game.
“Even when we got beat by London in our only loss this season, it wasn’t by a huge amount and the tries we conceded were very unlucky from our point of view.
“I wouldn’t say they did anything special to break us down, they just got two lucky tries on the day.”
Finally, Ward confirmed that he is pleased with his own start to the season, but insists that there’s further room for improvement.
“I think I’ve done OK and I’ve done all I can to help the team,” he said.
“I’ve played a lot of minutes so far this season, so I am happy, but I want to score a few more tries this time around.
“I got three last year and I haven’t scored so far this year, so it’s something I’ll be looking to do as the season moves forward.”