KEIGHLEY Cougars were denied a return to training by the snow on Tuesday, and with the season due to get underway in just over six weeks, head coach Rhys Lovegrove admits to being a little worried.

The Australian has built an impressive squad, with former Hull FC youngster Charlie Graham the latest to join last week.

But he may need that strength in depth to combat what he feels is the "elephant in the room" ahead of this season, mass injuries.

He said: "What we'd normally do in 12 weeks of pre-season, we're having to do in six this year.

"A rugby league game is a chaotic event with collisions and for me that's the elephant in the room nobody is talking about, injuries.

"You think of the time Super League lost to Covid last season, and that pales into insignificance compared to the weeks players lost to injuries.

"They're full-time too, whereas my guys lay bricks and things like that. Some of them work six days a week, train three times, then get hit on a Sunday."

It means Lovegrove is keen to squeeze in at least one friendly before Cougars' opening Challenge Cup game on the weekend of March 21.

He said: "We'd definitely like to get a friendly in if we can. We're conscious of the players' well-being and having a friendly would help, as we can limit minutes.

"If the Challenge Cup is our first game, then you're asking people to go from nothing over the last 12 months to a full on 80 minutes with just four subs.

"We'll definitely be up against top opposition (the first round is the 13 UK Championship sides and three League One teams), so if we are playing someone like Bradford, it will be a huge step up from what we're used to."

Keighley will be training three times a week down at Cougar Park from now on, as they build up to that Challenge Cup clash.

Lovegrove said: "We got a few sessions in before Christmas, but Tuesday was meant to be our first one back due to the RFL pausing our return in the New Year.

"We could maybe have got something on, but it wasn't worth potentially damaging the pitch and that setting us back.

"But we've got our Thursday and Friday training every week too.

"That does only leave 17 or 18 sessions before the Challenge Cup, so there's many factors to consider.

"We need a team that's going to be able to perform at a high level in that game, but we need to keep the players safe and make sure their families are protected too."

There is at least plenty of time before Cougars kick off their League 1 season in May.

Discussing that, Lovegrove said: "Mentally it might be a bit difficult for the players, because rugby league is their outlet and escape from work, and they have to wait another three months before they have regular games again.

"But we're excited to get out there and starting in May maybe gives us the opportunity to be that bit safer.

"Hopefully, not long after that, we can get fans into the grounds too."