JOHN Kear has thrown down the gauntlet to the Bulls fringe players in the 1895 Cup at Barrow tonight.

They make the trek to Cumbria with a much-changed squad from the Challenge Cup agony at the weekend.

Kear is unrepentant about the complete reshuffle in personnel as he looks to give the regular first-teamers a breather before they get back to Championship duty against Batley on Sunday.

But he also sees the midweek game as the chance for others to stake their claim.

He said: “The team will not feature anyone who played on Sunday. It’s not fair to ask them to back up.

“If the RFL want to ring me up, I’ll give them the reasons.

“If Super League teams can’t play on a Sunday and then a Thursday, which I believe is an unwritten rule, I don’t see why I should make my players, many of whom are part-time, to go Sunday and Wednesday. It’s cruel, basically.

“You’ve got to look after your players – and have faith in your squad.

“For that reason, we’ll travel to Barrow with a considerable number of changes. But it’s still a team I feel pretty excited about.

“People will get opportunities to displace the more established players within the squad. I’m looking forward to that.”

Ashley Gibson is set to feature in his first outing for more than two months.

The injury-hit centre has been limited to only five appearances this season up to now – the last when the Bulls began their Challenge Cup run at Keighley at the end of March.

He will be the old head in a youthful line-up as the Bulls make their debut in the knock-out competition set up for clubs outside Super League.

Kear added: “This was always the plan for Ash to play in this game.

“It will be fascinating to see a very strong Barrow team, who played really well in their last outing and will be ready for us travelling up to Cumbria.

“But we’ll be ready for them with a very young and enthusiastic squad with plenty to prove.”

The Halifax loss was the fourth in five games for the Bulls who need a quick pick-me-up having missed out on becoming the first Championship side to reach the last four of the Challenge Cup for 13 years.

“You get great elation when you’re involved in sport,” said Kear. “But you also get those times when you feel you’ve been kicked in the guts as well.

“At the minute, that’s the feeling for us and we’ve got to try and overcome that. We need to bring back some elation during the course of the rest of the season.

“With the greatest respect to Barrow, if I had played in a Challenge Cup quarter-final and then been asked to travel up there on the following Wednesday it would be pretty difficult to reproduce a similar performance.

“That’s been a factor in how we selected a team for both games.

“One it’s protection from injuries and two, it gives us the chance to re-energise. But this is an opportunity for others to show what they can do.”