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Paul Handforth deal a coup for Keighley Cougars
Paul March believes signing Paul Handforth is a statement of intent as Cougars seek to guarantee their Championship status at home to Halifax tonight (7.30pm).
March’s men are set to come up against the experienced play-maker, who will join Keighley on a one year-deal from the Calderdale club next season, in their final home league fixture of the current campaign.
Handforth will fill the gap following news that current scrum half Scott Leatherbarrow is on his way to Batley next season.
Player-coach March is delighted about signing what he believes to be one of the best half-backs in the Championship.
He said: “Someone like Paul gives us that experience and a signing of his calibre says a huge amount about where we want to be next year.
“I’ve spoken to him and he’s really excited about joining up with us. We didn’t really want it to come out before we actually played them but that’s the way it turned out in the end.
“There’s a merry-go-round in this division with half-backs at the minute and obviously we’ve lost Scotty to Batley as well.
“But professional rugby players will just get on with their jobs like Paul will tonight and we’ll welcome him here for next season.
“He brings something different to Scott and we played with a couple of experienced halves up at Whitehaven and our game management was brilliant up there.
“Scott’s still got a lot to learn but he has got something different. He’s got a great kicking and passing game and we’ll miss him.”
Handforth’s previous clubs include Castleford, Wakefield and Batley. The 31-year-old won the Northern Rail Cup with the Bulldogs in 2010 and did it again with his current club last year.
Meanwhile, a win and two bonus points in Cougars’ last three games have eased fears of relegation and kept alive faint hopes of making the play-offs. They remain four points above the bottom two and four points off the top eight.
Victory tonight would secure safety ahead of their final away trip to Barrow but March knows that third-placed Halifax will prove a difficult test.
He hopes to welcome back Danny Jones, Scott Law, Sean Hesketh, Elliott Cosgrove and Paul White after they were rested last weekend. March said: “It was always our plan to change people around because it was a massive week.
“With the Halifax game now being our third game in eight days we’ll bring some bodies back who didn’t play against Featherstone and hopefully we’ll be able to give a good account of ourselves.
“It’s been a roller coaster for us and Karl will say it’s been the same for them over the last few weeks because they’ve had a couple of up and down performances over the last couple of weeks.
“It’s a local derby and everybody lifts for that, so we’ll be ready and if we play well hopefully that’ll be good enough.”
Meanwhile, Cougars winger Daley Williams was due to re-sign for next season this week, while centre Cosgrove and winger White have both committed themselves to Keighley for 2014.
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