KENDAL director of rugby Steve Whitehead insists his side's opening fixture against Birkenhead Park will present a difficult challenge but believes they have the ability and determination to come away victorious.

The Merseyside outfit missed out on promotion by just one point last year as Kendal finished in fourth place.

And following a decent few weeks preparation, which ended with Kendal progressing in the Cumbria Cup in a comfortable win over Hawcoat Park on Saturday, Whitehead is confident they can transfer that good form and get off to the perfect start when Birkenhead travel to Mint Bridge this weekend.

“Birkenhead will start as one of the league favourites,” he said. “They were unlucky not to get promoted and I was surprised they didn’t go up. They are a very good outfit so to start with them is a stern test.

“Pre-season is always difficult when players have other responsibilties. It can be a bit patchy at times until we get the same personnel week in week out but I am happy with the work we have done and we are ready for it.

“There wasn’t much in the match last year. We are a different side to what we were and will be going out to fight fire with fire.

“I am always confident with the kind of lads I’ve got. As a sportsmen these are the type of fixtures you want to be tested at.”

He added: “All the lads are excited to get started. They have worked hard and I’ve been impressed with both sides work-rate. There is a good atmosphere around the club, morale is high and it’s an exciting place to be around at the moment.”

Kendal set up an away tie against Carlisle in the quarter final with their 31-7 victory over Hawcoat Park through tries from Jordan Johnson, Rhys Studt, Chris Downham and a double from Garry Holmes.

“I was pleased with the win,” said Whitehead. “It was a scrappy game with not much to it. Hawcoat have rugby league influence so there were less union patterns coming from them. I thought they squandered a couple of chances as did we but I was happy to come through it.

“It’s good to be in the cup when a lot of Cumbrian sides in it are at the same level so it ups the ante and anticipation.”