KEIGHLEY Cougars head coach Rhys Lovegrove won't have the luxury of easing his players in tomorrow, with the friendly at Bradford Bulls their only one before a big Challenge Cup clash at London Broncos next weekend.

Bradford played Swinton last Saturday, and were able to experiment a little, giving 27 different players a game.

But their head coach, John Kear, admitted afterwards that it would be a smaller squad for Keighley, as they look to properly prepare, in terms of looking at tactics and starters, for their cup game at Featherstone.

And Bradford is Keighley's only shot, as they were not in action over the weekend.

Speaking ahead of Cougars' first game in over a year, Lovegrove said: “It’s really exciting that Bradford fixture, as it’s been so long since anyone played.

“It’s just good to get rugby league back and we’ve been getting the feel back for it in training.

“We need to do it correctly this weekend, and I’ve spoken to Bradford well in advance of the game just to see what their expectations are from it.

“We only get the one friendly, so we want to put the processes and plans in place that we’d have for a competitive game, with everyone getting the reps they need.

“It’s going to be exciting to play this weekend regardless, so add in the fact it’s against Bradford, and we can get stuck into a derby too.”

No derby is the same without fans, but Keighley's only scheduled behind closed doors game at Cougar Park is their League 1 opener with Doncaster.

Lovegrove said: “I’d say League 1 has an ageing demographic of fans, so a lot of them have probably been vaccinated already.

“There may be scope for a vaccine passport to get into matches, which would be hugely beneficial in terms of making games a spectacle and creating an atmosphere.

“We’re keeping our fingers crossed that the fans are able to come back when planned, as we’ve almost forgotten what a proper game day is like.”

Keighley will of course be without key prop Wellington Albert for tomorrow's game with Bulls and the return of fans in May, after he suffered a nasty ankle injury in training that will keep him out for several months.