Castleford ready for champions test

Daryl Powell.
Daryl Powell.

So far, so good but now comes Castleford Tigers’ biggest test as they put their unbeaten record on the line against Super League kings Wigan Warriors.

With three wins from three games the Tigers have made a dream start to the new season and are in confident mood ahead of testing themselves against the champions at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle on Sunday.

Head coach Daryl Powell acknowledged his side face their toughest examination so far, but reckons the players will be up for the challenge and can raise their game another notch

He told the Express: “There’s a real good buzz about the place and we’ve got to continue that.

“We’ve got Wigan this week, who are a formidable side, and we need to aim up so we can do the job again.

“It’s a really big test. I watched their game against Wakefield and they were dominant. They are a tough side to play against and we know they will come here looking to build their points tally.

“They obviously lost their first game against Huddersfield and they’ll want to come here and play well after a tough game for them in the World Club Challenge.

“It’s going to be a difficult game, but confidence with us is certainly high. We’re at home and we’ve got to feel good playing in front of our supporters, who I thought were outstanding again last week at Hull KR.

“We need to start the game well. We always talk about this, but when you play Wigan you know they are going to ramp up on you right at the start and you have to go with that.”

With no new major injuries Castleford are likely to go with roughly the same squad that did the job in the 30-10 win at Hull KR, but Powell has not ruled out making a change to the team like the one he made last week, when Richard Owen came in on the wing and bagged a hat-trick of tries.

He said: “We’re not too bad with injuries. Michael Shenton rolled his ankle, but he’ll be okay for Sunday and everyone else is all right.

“We’ve also got Jake Webster and Nathan Massey coming back soon. Jake will play for York on Sunday at Hunslet and it will be good for him to get a run out. Hopefully then he’ll be available moving forward and Nathan Massey is only a couple of weeks away so we are getting some good players coming back onto the scene.

“We’ve got some tough games and some short turnarounds coming up so we’ll need everybody raring to go for the next couple of months.”

Powell believes having greater squad strength this year is already paying dividends with competition for places giving him a selection headache of the welcome kind.

He added: “There’s so many people putting their hand up and playing really well that it’s making my job difficult at the moment.

“Last week I left Kirk Dixon out, who had done absolutely nothing wrong, and put Richard Owen in. That’s the quality we have and why we have such a depth of squad. We can mix it up a little bit and give different opportunities to players at different times.

“They are responding when they are in there. I thought Luke Dorn was excellent at the back, as Jordan Tansey had been the week before.

“Richard Owen finished outstandingly well for his tries and I thought his carries were great. He’s been waiting for his chance and he was excellent when he got out there.

“So was Kirk Dixon in the games that he’s played so we’ve got three, four wingers with James Clare to come, who are all excellent. We just have to manage their expectation.

“I’ve got to make sure I give opportunity where it’s due and give players the chance of a breather. It’s a long season and we are in it for the long haul.

“There’s no point exhausting 18 or 19 people, we’ve got a squad who are all capable of playing at this level and doing a fantastic job.

“I’m going to utilise them all and there’ll be some tough messages for players to take at times, but it’s my job to make sure that at the end of the season we’ve still got a group of people who are enjoying what they’re doing and are pretty fresh and hungry for performances on a weekly basis.”