JOHN Kear admits the favourites tag weighed heavily on the Bulls during their year in League One.

It all starts again this week as the bulk of the squad report back to Tong for the start of their pre-season regime.

The build-up begins for the return to the Championship – when Kear’s men will not be there to be shot at.

That was the case every week during the club’s first experience of third-tier rugby before eventually clinching promotion via the play-offs.

Kear welcomed the difference of not having that expectation hanging over him when he recently coached Wales to World Cup qualification against the odds.

The Welsh were the European Championship outsiders but beat both Scotland and Ireland to finish second behind France – and book their slot for the 2021 showpiece.

Kear said: “We weren’t the favourites in any game we played. The bookies may have got it right in the first game (against France) but they didn’t in the other two.

“It was a bit of a contrast to last year when Bradford went into every game as the favourites. It was nice to be the other way around.

“I can tell you, it’s a lot easier to manage when it is that way. The favourites tag weighs incessantly and constantly and very heavily.”

Kear enjoys his dual role as an international coach and is moulding a Wales squad that he aims to develop before the next World Cup comes around.

He added: “The programme for next year is something I’ve got to discuss with the Welsh chairman Brian Juliff. We’ve obviously got the European Championship the year after.

“What we’ll try and do is develop this group of young players. We’ve got three years and they will form the nucleus of the 2021 squad.

“We’re going to stick with them, work with them and try to make them better.”

Kear can see the similarities with his Bulls squad as he works with a settled group.

“It’s very much like the Bradford team,” he said. “Yes, we’ve added some experience in the off-season but it’s pretty stable.

“There haven’t been wholesale changes and I want to see how good they are at this level.

“I won’t be pleasantly surprised – I think I’ll have my suspicions confirmed that they can handle it.”