ROVERS are set to start with a young side as they begin their pre-season preparations at Hibs on Sunday.

The Scottish Premiership outfit have a Europa League qualifier at home to Faroe Islands side Runavik on Thursday and have been back in training for two weeks.

Neil Lennon’s men have played two friendly matches already, the latest a 6-0 win over Berwick Rangers on Wednesday.

And Rovers boss Tony Mowbray said he feels starting with a youthful line-up will be the best way to combat a team who are further along in their pre-season work.

Striker Joe Nuttall, midfielder Lewis Travis and centre back Scott Wharton are three likely starters while the quartet of Rovers players who only returned to training this week after an extended summer owing to international commitments are not expected to start the game.

Defender Paul Downing will also be missing with the centre back nursing a groin injury.

On his likely line up for the Easter Road clash, Mowbray said: “The plan is to possibly start the young players on Sunday.

“They have come back as you would expect, they are 20-year-olds where running is not a problem. They are right at the front in all the drills and all the exercises and they have worked extremely hard.

“Because Hibs are going to be so far in front of us in terms of their preparation it is probably wise to start the game with a pretty athletic, fit young team. As we get deeper into pre-season then we can try and look at the right balance. We will have a pretty youthful side starting the game, everybody will be coming and they will all get game time and I am looking forward to it.”

Mowbray spent two years in charge at Hibs from 2004-06, leading the club to a third place finish in his first season at the helm.

And while he revealed he was looking forward to returning to Edinburgh, his focus will be on fitness and preparation rather than the result.

He added: “It is a place I know well from 15 years ago and a club that has built up and it will be a good test for us. Hopefully it will be a good game in a nice stadium.

“We are not really interested in the result, we want a performance from the team of course, but it is about how we work and the amount of running we have to do and how we close the opposition and how we win back the ball.

“You have to work really really hard in pre-season to get the benefit of it.

“We want to be competitive in all of our pre-season games and we have tried to balance it with games against difficult opponents where we know we are going to be out of possession with some against teams where we hope we will have more possession.”

On Downing’s injury the manager added: “He missed three or four days with a tight groin in Austria so he has missed six or seven core physical sessions and so we probably won’t risk him at the weekend as he has a bit of catching up to do. He is not injured, it is just the sessions he has missed.”

Sunday’s game (3pm) is a testimonial for Hibs stalwart Paul Hanlon who has spent a decade at the club and made nearly 300 appearances.