COACH DARYL Powell knows the size of the task facing his Castleford Tigers side at St Helens tonight, but is confident they will rise to the challenge.
Tigers have lost 13 successive meetings with Saints, stretching back to 2008 and have not won away to tonight’s opponents in 22 years.
Cas’ defeat at Catalan Dragons last week cost them the league leaders’ shield – which went to Saints instead – and meant they tumbled to fourth on the final league table.
That was still their best Super League finish and guarantees them a home play-off, either in two weeks’ time if they win this evening, or next weekend should they lose.
Tigers have had to contend with the disappointment of last Saturday, plus the travel back from France, but Powell said the signs in training this week have been positive.
“Everybody looks okay,” he said. “The boys have got plenty of energy and we’ve got a fair bit done.
“We’ve had a look at St Helens and we’ve just got to go and play with confidence now.
“It is going to be tough, regardless of who they’ve got missing.
“They are still a good side, they finished top and they will be the favourites, so we’ve just got to go and play well and enjoy the challenge of the play-offs.”
Powell is taking no comfort from Saints’ lengthy injury list. He added: “They are difficult to beat at home, they have got a massive forward pack and they’ve got some good young players coming through.
“It will be a massive game and we’ll have to be at our absolute peak to get a result. We are under no illusions, we will have to play outstanding rugby league to win this game.”
Powell will select his side for tonight from the 17 on duty in France, plus Adam Milner and Michael Channing.
Justin Carney remains sidelined due to the ankle injury he suffered in the Challenge Cup final four weeks ago.
But Powell said he will be available for Tigers’ next play-off tie.
Saints are without Alex Walmsley, who was banned for one game following his red card in last Friday’s defeat at Huddersfield Giants.
Luke Thompson, Adam Swift and Greg Richards are vying to replace him.
St Helens from: Wellens, Makinson, Percival, Jones, Dawson, Hohaia, Wheeler, Amor, Roby, Masoe, Manu, Laffranchi, Turner, Soliola, Flanagan, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Swift, Thompson, Richards.
Castleford Tigers from: Dorn, Dixon, Webster, Shenton, Clare, Sneyd, Finn, Lynch, Clark, Jewitt, Holmes, Hauraki, Massey, Milner, Wheeldon, Huby, Millington, Ellis, Channing.
Referee: James Child (Batley).
Kick-off: Tonight, 8pm.