Brett Hodgson has no worries about potentially handing out a number of Hull FC debuts on Friday night.
The Black and Whites travel to Perpignan with four academy players within the squad and at least two will be included in the 17-man line-up to take on Catalans Dragons at the Stade Gilbert Brutus and one could even start the game.
Only Marcus Walker has been included in a squad before, with Will Wallis, Joel Speed and Jacob Hookem all travelling as part of the first-team for a Super League for the very first time.
It comes as a host of key individuals drop out through Covid, injury and suspension to leave Hull as huge underdogs for the contest.
However, Hodgson is keen to give those youngsters their chance and he’s looking forward to seeing how they get on.
“It’s not been difficult at all,” Hodgson said when asked whether it was tough to nail down a 19-man travelling party this week.
“I’ll say that because we’ve invested a lot in some of the younger kids that have come in to try and get them to the standard that we’re asking of them.
“We will give the opportunity to a couple of those boys to play tomorrow which is excited for us as a club and the area.
“There’s no pressure for us to perform this week because we need to make sure we go there and enjoy what we have to do against a good team and I’m really looking forward to it.”
The head coach has made a habit of watching the Black and Whites’ academy games this season and all four players have been training with the first-team this season.
As such, he knows the quartet well and he’s calling on his senior men to give them the support and protection they might need during the contest.
“Will Wallis is a big powerful thing and when he carries the ball he runs through the right line really well and having another physical presence will help us as a squad,” he added.
“Jacob Hookem has been a half/hooker and he played in the representative game (for Yorkshire) last week. He’s a good general, he gets the players around pretty well and he knows when to run and when to create opportunities for others.
“Marcus Walker has a versatility about him, he can play a number of positions, pretty much anywhere in the outside backs, and he has a good body type to play at this level. He’s not a small kid and he can get himself in front defensively, he’s quite solid in his action.
“Joel Speed is an outside back, winger and quick. He came off a knee reconstruction last year and for him to get himself back in contention this year is pleasing.
“They’re four boys that have worked exceptionally hard.
“We’ll see how they perform tomorrow, you go into your debut game with a buzz and excitement about it.
“We need to protect them as a squad at times and not have them isolated in their actions and make sure the players inside and outside are protecting them.”
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