JAMES FORD says that his York City Knights side are ready to embrace the challenge of this evening's season opener at Toulouse Olympique (5pm kick-off).

The fixture is each club's first of the new Betfred Championship season and pits last term's second and third placed sides against one another at the Stade Ernest-Wallon, with the match being broadcast on the Our League app.

Both sides have strengthened their squads during the off-season as they bid for a return to the play-offs this year, with York's seven new recruits all named in their 21-man squad and in line for their Knights debuts.

Toulouse, who are one of only two full-time sides in the division, have endured some close contests with the Knights in recent matches against the two sides, though they've won all of the last six matches against York.

The task of facing such a strong side is one that head coach Ford is relishing.

“They’ve strengthened their squad and they’re making a big song and dance about challenging for Super League," he said.

“And, if you look at the personnel in there, they probably should be.

“We’ve had some really good games against them historically.

"In my opinion, we should have beaten them twice in the league. They pipped us twice at the end.

“Then they obviously blew us away in the play-offs.

“We’re looking forward to it. We know that it’s going to be a tough challenge because they’re a top side.

“But, we want to be challenged by these top sides and the individuals within those top sides.

“We can’t wait to have a go."

The Knights boss was also quick to stress that no excuses will be made by his part-time squad about the travel involved in the match, who flew out yesterday morning.

Ford added of challenges of playing away: “Obviously there’s the journey and the flight and the French locals get behind them.

"But, we don’t really buy into that.

“I think people who cite that are making excuses and we won’t be making any excuses about travelling over there.

“Toulouse have got to travel across to England for at least half of their games and we don’t hear any excuses from them."

York's pre-season campaign finished with a 6-4 defeat at Bradford Bulls last weekend, meaning they failed to win any of three warm-up matches.

Ford though feels his side are in a strong position heading into the season's start.

“I think we’re in a good spot as a group," said Ford.

“I think that the players are pretty smart and they know where they’re at.

“They know that they’re defending well, they know that they’re feeling fit and strong.

“I think that they’re pretty happy with their shape and the amount of chances that we’ve created.

“These players don’t turn into bad players overnight.

“I’m confident in these players. We’ve got players who have the opportunity to be really good, as long as they keep working hard at their game."

Jimmy Keinhorst is in the York squad for the first time since his loan move from Hull KR having been suffering with a shoulder problem.

Winger Perry Whiteley also returns from a knock into the squad.

Ford said: “I’m pleased that Perry is back and available for selection. Whether he gets the final nod remains to be seen.

“And, it’s the same with Jimmy. He’s trained well for the past couple of weeks.

“We’re going to wait to see how he pulls up after training tonight (Thursday) before we make our final decision.

“What we don’t want to do is bring both of them back and then they both suffer (another) set back and then they miss a fair chunk of the season.

“Nobody gets promoted or relegation after round one.

“So, we’ll take the sensible option with both of them."

York City Knights squad: Marsh, Whiteley, Keinhorst, Salter, Sharp, Johnston, Robinson, Jubb, Teanby, Washbrook, Scott, Spears, Brining, Green, Clarkson, Porter, Baldwinson, Stock, Bass, Hey, Jordan-Roberts.