EAMON O’Carroll sees the constant diet of cup rugby as the perfect starter before the Bulls tuck into the Championship.

His side have already played three cup ties in the warm-up to the 2024 campaign, which kicks off at title favourites Wakefield next month.

The Bulls host Widnes on Sunday in the fourth round of the Challenge Cup on Sunday – and are at home again the following weekend when Swinton are the opposition for their 1895 Cup quarter-final.

It is an unusual schedule to lead into the Championship opener. But head coach O’Carroll feels it is an ideal way for the players to get attuned to competitive rugby again.

“It’s great preparation,” he said. “It’s a bit different and I don’t think I’ve ever started a season like that but we’re just happy to be in games now.

“We get some connection with each other and the weeks have a different feel to them.

“It’s going to feel like round 10 by the time we get to round one. But that’s the nature of the beast and it’s the same for everyone in the competition.”

Back-to-back home games also allow the Bulls to get a good feel of Odsal again and the different dimensions to other grounds.

O’Carroll added: “That helps. Home advantage is always a real positive for us so we’re happy in that respect.

“We get to play another couple of games in front of our home fans and sponsors. That will be good and I’m sure they will turn up in their numbers and they’ll give us plenty of support.”

He is hopeful that Lee Gaskell will be in contention to face the Vikings after the playmaker sat out the Keighley game through illness. Billy Jowitt deputised in the halves in the 26-18 win at Cougar Park.

O’Carroll was delighted to see skipper Michael Lawrence back for his first outing of the year as the experienced forward notched 350 career appearances.

“You could see we looked really calm and connected,” he said. “He does his job.

“I said in the week he was desperate to play – not because it was a significant game for him but because he loves playing for this club and this group and representing us as captain.

“There were a few knocks and bumps but I don’t see anyone not being able to take part in training. I don’t think we’ve had a game like that yet so I’m happy.”

O’Carroll admitted it was a mixed-bag performance against their League One neighbours. But there were signs that the Bulls are prepared to throw the ball around a bit more.

“I want us to express ourselves with our attack once we’ve built a good foundation.

“We’re certainly not anywhere where I want us to be in terms of our attack. But we’re working on those crucial parts like our go-forward, our support and speed of play the ball.

“We sometimes moved it when we didn’t need to but we certainly highlighted a couple of areas.

“That’s what’s good about getting into these games now. We get to practice what we want, change a few things and highlight what we’ve seen in our previews.

“I want the team to express themselves with the ball and have some ball movement. But it’s off the back of going forward and generating some speed around the ruck.

“We probably didn’t get the balance of it right but I was happy to see some of the things we practised in training.”