UPDATE: Opening training session tonight (Monday) cancelled due to snow.

YORK City Knights’ new under-20s squad have their first training session on Monday – boosted by the confirmation former first-team boss Mick Cook will be part of the coaching staff.

The Rugby Football League changed the age rules at late notice, switching the competition from U19s to U20s, after the Knights had signed up their squad. As such, the bulk of York’s youth team are a year in arrears.

However, team manager and club development officer Jack Stearman says the focus when their 12-match season starts on February 28 at home to Salford should be on improvement and progress rather than solely winning games. And the fact Cook, who headed up Leeds Rhinos’ academy before taking the first-team reins at York between 2005 and 2007, is on board should prove a big fillip.

Said Stearman: “It’s a massive positive, given his experience coaching and playing and in developing Leeds Rhinos youngsters. We’re trying to develop our players as best we can and having the likes of Cooky and James Ford coaching them is fantastic.”

Cook, who stepped down as first-team assistant-boss last year having previously held the same position at Sheffield Eagles, will assist U20s head coach Ford this year, along with New Earswick ARLC youth coach Will Leatt.

Ford, the first-team captain, who had a successful debut season in charge last year when leading the then U18s team to five wins in six games and seeing a number of players get into the first-team frame despite their tender years.

A 21-strong squad of U19s players has been selected for 2013, and that will be augmented by first-team squad members also now eligible at U20s level, including Kriss Brining, Ed Smith, Tim Stubbs and Tyler Craig, who all saw Championship action last year, and Sam Orange, a recruit from Castleford.

Stearman said: “Some of our lads will be eligible for the U17s so will be giving away a few years on other players. Teams will be allowed two over-age players as well so it’s fair to assume the younger lads in the squad might not get too much game-time.

“But these (16-year-olds) will have four years to prove themselves and develop into first-team material, and they need to keep focused on the learning curve.

“We want to carry on from last year’s success at U18s. We were confident of doing well at U19s, although now it’s changed to U20s it’s more about developing these players in training as well as in matches, rather than just winning games.

“It’s about how many players we can develop into first-team squad members or help to improve for when they go back to their amateur clubs.”

U20s squad (all U19s): Sam Roe (York St John University); Ash Winstanley (Selby Warriors); Adam Dent (Holderness Vikings); Jonah Adshead (York Acorn); Ryan Gallacher (York St John University), Lennox Green (West Hull); Charlie Hall (Wetherby Bulldogs); Lewis Campion (Skirlaugh); Alex Paddock (Scarborough Pirates); Josh Poulter (Heworth); Lewis Poskitt (Cottingham Tigers); Lewis Lord (York Acorn); Hieu Giddings (Holderness Vikings); Ben Owram (Scarborough Pirates); Ryan Hewick (Wetherby Bulldogs); Liam Braithwaite (Heworth); Josh Kelly (Holderness Vikings); Tom Fitzsimmons (Brotherton); Ryan Parker (Wakefield College); Jonny Long (Lambworth Lions); Adam Gowland (New Earswick All Blacks).

Eligible (U20s) first-team squad players: Greg Minikin, James Morland, Harry Carter, Luke Tomlinson, Tim Stubbs, Kriss Brining, Ed Smith, Sam Orange, Tyler Craig.