JAMES Neil is the new Blackburn Hawks coach after the club axed Steve Duncombe.

Neil's side travel to fourth place Solway Sharks on Saturday and host second place side Sheffield Steeldogs on Sunday.

The decision to replaced Duncombe, who has missed the last few weeks with illness, was taken by senior management at the Hawks.

Club spokesman John Neville said: “A change of direction has been on the cards for some time.

"We need to be fulfilling our potential and move up the table prior to the end of season play-offs.

"Management are also doing their utmost to recruit a couple of players to boost the squad. I have never known so many serious injuries at one time.”

And Neil, who was previously assistant coach, a role that will be taken on by Bobby Streetly, is

"Over the last few weeks I've taken over and for a lot of the season I've been in charge," said Neil.

"Steve has had various injuries and has most recently been ill. I got a call from the management on Wednesday, they told me their plans and I was more than happy to go along with it.

"There's been a big improvement in the team's performances over recent weeks and the management has noticed that, so that's probably why they've made this decision."

Neil is not fazed by taking on the top job adding: "It's not more pressure as I've been in charge for most of the season anyway.

"I enjoy it and it's something that I love to do, we haven't really had a bad game, when that happens then I'll see how I react.

"We trained on Thursday night for an hour and the lads are enjoying it and that's a key thing.

"Everyone is buying in to what I'm doing and it's showing in matches. Not many of our players get paid, so there's no point turning up if you're not there to win and that's what I've told them.

"Maybe we were being shown the wrong direction before. I'm trying to give them more confidence and guidance.

"I'm injured at the moment, so I'm able to sit on the bench and watch everything and remind them what they need to do."