Paul March has tipped Cougars newcomer Scott Leatherbarrow to take the Championship by storm this season.

Player-coach March has recruited the rookie half-back from Wigan and believes he can prove a major influence at Keighley.

The 22-year-old Wiganer played for England at Under-15 and 16 levels and progressed through the Warriors’ academy system before spending time at South Wales Scorpions on dual registration.

With little prospect of regular first-team rugby at Wigan, Leather-barrow joined Cougars on a one-year deal after turning down offers from a number of rival Championship clubs in favour of Keighley.

He starred during last Sunday’s pre-season friendly 23-20 win over Barrow and March believes his playmaking qualities will continue to come to the fore.

March – who takes his side to Batley for their third pre-season friendly on Sunday – said: “I believe Scott will make a real mark on the Championship this year.

“He’s got a great footballing brain and on Sunday against Barrow he proved once again that he can play at this level.

“The half-back partnership between Scott and Danny Jones is working well at the minute and long may it continue.

“We just need to keep them injury-free and playing consistently.

“Scott is working for our Found-ation so he’s getting to know people around the community as well.

“I believe he will prove a great signing for us.”

March had seen his men heavily beaten by Halifax in their opening pre-season friendly at Cougar Park on Boxing Day.

But tries from Paul White, Danny Lawton, Joe Chandler and Danny Jones, plus three conversions and a drop-goal from Leatherbarrow, gave Cougars victory in Cumbria last weekend.

March, who lined up at loose forward against Barrow, is now ready for the challenge of facing a Batley side coached by his old boss John Kear.

He added: “Against Halifax we had a lot of kids on the field but we were a lot stronger at Barrow and it showed.

“We played well in parts and improved from the Halifax game.

“That’s all I can ask from the players, so we looked at the video again on Tuesday and talked about where we can improve again at Batley.”

Batley have emerged as a respected force in recent years, first under Karl Harrison and now under the guidance of former England boss Kear.

March, who played under Kear at Wakefield, declared: “We want to be like Batley and be consistent in the Championship.

“The likes of Batley, Sheffield and a few other sides have been there or thereabouts for the past few years now – in and around the play-off places.

“That’s the kind of club we’re striving towards becoming and it will be a big test this weekend because I know John Kear has improved his squad massively from last year.

“We’ve been looking forward to it all week and it will be a good marker for us before we played them in the first game of the season.”