AFTER a week off to recharge batteries Castleford Tigers are in confident mood ahead of their West Yorkshire derby against Leeds Rhinos on Sunday.
Tigers boss Ian Millward believes his side turned a corner with victory over Salford in their last game and can make the short travel to Headingley Carnegie in positive spirits to give a good account of themselves against the reigning champions.
He told the Express: “Everyone is raring to go.
“The break’s been good and everyone’s had a little bit of time off. It’s been good for players who have wear and tear and bumps and the like.
“The only bloke who is definitely out is Kirk Dixon, who is out for the rest of the season with a neck and shoulder problem.
“We’re looking forward to the rest of the season. There’s 10 games to go and we feel that there’s quite a few games we can score some points in and it’s important to everyone that we finish the season off well.
“We need to come out of the blocks after the break and we’re at Leeds next. We’re definitely not going there feeling intimidated or apprehensive, we’re very positive and ready.
“It’s a big game for the fans and it’s actually a game that we think off the back of our last game that we can win.
“The Salford win for us was no surprise. We felt there wasn’t much between us and Wakefield and against Bradford a lot of our mistakes gave them opportunities. The last match certainly gave us a lot of confidence and want to take that into the Leeds game.
“We’ve got a lot to play for and we’d like if possible to go on a run. We’ve had a good week and we’re quite positive going into Sunday, although we obviously know it won’t be easy.”
The Rhinos’ form has been patchy this year, but Millward is wary of writing them off in the hunt for silverware after the way they came on strong in the second half of last season.
He said: “They have been a bit up and down this year, but when you are Super League champions you have to be resilient and have a lot of experience.
“I’ve seen their last two games against Wigan and Wakefield and they’re going through a bit of a mixed patch, but they are only two points off the four so they are doing a lot of things right.
“They’ve still got a lot of big game players. Robbie Burrow is in the form of his life at the moment and they’ve got some really outstanding players.
“Zak Hardaker played full-back on Monday night and I thought he played extremely well. He’s a talented young kid.
“You don’t go there looking to see who is vulnerable, you go there respecting how good their players are.
“Leeds are probably repricating what they did last year so you’ve got to be careful predicting any doomsday for them because they won Super League last year and made the final of the Challenge Cup.”
Millward will check on the fitness of Josh Griffin before naming his team to face Leeds after the outside back missed the Salford game through injury, but he wants to keep changes to a minimum.
He said: “We’ll go pretty similar to the Salford game. Obviously we’ve got to make a change with Kirk Dixon out and we would put Josh Griffin in, but he’s still not 100 per cent and we’ll find out later in the week if he’ll be the one coming into the centres.
“Danny Orr will definitely take on the same role he did against Salford. He was brilliant in that game and we’d like him to make the same impact against Leeds.
“Ryan McGoldrick will continue at half-back and the only changes we will make will be enforced.
“All our players came through the internationals okay. Rangi Chase, Jake Emmitt and Rhys Williams all came through fine and are ready to go.
“I saw Rangi play and I didn’t think the conditions gave him an opportunity to show off some of his talents. It was a very stop-start game because the amount of errors, but I think it’s good that Rangi played.
“Everyone’s got to understand that he missed six weeks and it takes a while to get back into it, but he’s doing well and I’m pleased with him.”
Millward revealed that centre Joe Arundel could be out of action for longer than expected.
He added: “Joe Arundel is still not available. His injury is not improving at the rate we originally thought so he’s got to go back for another specialist’s report on Friday and the news might not be as positive as we thought originally.”
York City Knights are in talks with Castleford about signing John Davies on a permanent basis.
The 21-year-old second-row forward is currently playing for the Championship club as a dual registered player, having had two previous spells on loan with the Knights, and has impressed coach Chris Thorman.
Tigers Academy product Davies has featured once in the first team this year when he started against St Helens in April.
The annual Castleford Tigers gala day takes place at the Probiz Coliseum on Saturday, starting at 10am.
A feast of junior rugby will be on show and the entire first team will attend for a signing session following training at 10.30am. Other attractions will include competitions, mums and dads touch rugby game, arcades, tombola, raffles, barbecue, beer tent, refreshments and other stalls. All profits will go to the Tigers Trust charitable foundation.