Daryl Powell is backing his Castleford Tigers team to come through a test of their squad strength at Huddersfield Giants tonight.
The Tigers will take the field at the John Smith’s Stadium without Luke Gale, Zak Hardaker and Mike McMeeken, who are on England duty, plus Ben Roberts who has been ruled out through a groin injury.
They have drafted in recent signing Alex Foster to their 19-man squad and recalled back rower Kevin Larroyer, half-back Tom Holmes and centre Kieran Gill from their loan clubs Bradford, Batley and Oldham respectively.
But rather than look at it as a negative the Cas boss sees this week’s game as a good opportunity for the players coming in to press their claims.
Powell told the Express: “It is an important game for us and an exciting challenge. We are missing a few of our better players so it’s an interesting one, but we’ve got a good squad out and we’ll go there confident of getting some points.
“We’ve some players with good versatility and the ability to play in different positions – and do so really effectively. We will be relying on those players to do really well this week.
“There’s a great opportunity for some players who haven’t played as much this year or are coming in for the first time to do well. They can put themselves forward and it challenges our squad depth to see where we are at.
“I’ve seen a fair bit of the players who have been out on loan and they’ve all been going pretty well. They get an opportunity now to put themselves forward and show they can play in the team.”
Powell is not too impressed by the timing of the mid-season international and the fact that England players have been asked to travel to Australia at this time for the one-off Test match against Samoa.
He said: “It’s not ideal, but there’s not a lot we can do about, it’s where it is and we just need to crack on.
“I’m not going to worry about it too much.
“I’ve played in mid-season Tests before when I was playing and you just got on with it.
“I think the fact that they’re having to travel to the other side of the world is complicated, but we’ll just crack on with it.
“We’ve got a second Easter programme coming up in a few weeks so it would have been hard to fit in a blank weekend to play the England match.
“But it’s there and we just have to deal with it. We think we’ve got a good deep squad and hopefully we’ll be able to manage.”
Powell confirmed that half-back Roberts was injured for the huddersfield game, but he does not think he will be out for long.
He said: “Ben Roberts won’t play this week after getting a groin injury against Wigan. Hopefully it’s not going to be too long he’s out. We’re looking at a couple of weeks at this stage, but we’ll see how he rolls into next week because we’ve got a long turnaround after this one.
“I need to check on Junior Moors as well as I’m not how he’s going to be, but otherwise we’re okay injury-wise.”
Whoever takes the field for Cas, Powell reckons they can expect to face a tough test from a Giants side fresh from a big win away to Leeds Rhinos.
He added: “They just lost out at Warrington and then they beat Leeds last week so they’ll be feeling a bit better about themselves.
“Danny Brough’s been pretty pivotal to the things they’ve been doing. He’s been getting all over the field and getting his hands on the ball, so there’s some real challenges for us. Ikahihifo is a handful with the ball and they’ve got some really good players.
“They will see this as a good opportunity and they’ll really come after us.
“They started well against us when we were at home. Once we got our teeth into the game we were too good for them, but this will be a different challenge for us.
“We’ve obviously got a different full-back and two new halves to what we’ve had in the recent past, but I think it’s a great challenge from a coaching perspective to get the best out of the players.”