COACH Daryl Powell says squad rotation is the key to Castleford Tigers’ hopes of glory this season.
Powell has left star trio Justin Carney, Jake Webster and Craig Huby out of his initial 19 for tonight’s trip to Hull, with James Clare, Ashley Gibson, Garreth Carvell, Scott Wheeldon and Jamie Ellis vying for a recall.
Powell confirmed Carney, Webster and Huby are fit but said he is determined to keep his entire squad fresh.
“Our squad is pretty healthy at the moment,” said Powell. “It is an opportunity to give a couple of blokes a bit of a breather.
“We’ve got some good players who haven’t played over the last couple of weeks. It is still a very, very strong squad and it will be a strong team.
“Hull will be pretty motivated having lost last week (56-10 at Wigan Warriors) so it is a good challenge for us.”
Powell said he will continue his policy of giving key players a rest as Tigers build up to next month’s Tetley’s Challenge Cup semi-final and the First Utility Super League play-offs.
“It is about making sure we consistently get what we need out of the team,” he added.
“That’s managing players across the season. We have done it all year and we have got good value out of it.”
Tigers have a history of raising their game to play Leeds Rhinos and then falling away in their next match.
Powell said changing the team which drew 24-24 at Headingley Carnegie a week ago should ensure that pattern is not repeated tonight.
“It was a tough game, there’s no question about that,” he said of last week’s derby. “We have got that every week and that’s why it is important you bring players in who have got an extra bit of motivation, for different reasons.
“I think we have really got a lot out of that this year. Luke Dorn was left out the week before the Leeds game and you saw the performance we got from him.
“I think we’ve seen that all season. It’s about continuing to keep the squad and individual players motivated.
“I have managed to do that so far. We will see how this game goes but I am confident we have got the ability in the team to make sure we get what we need out of this game.
“We have got good depth in our squad and I have said right from the start of pre-season, it is about the whole squad.
“You can roll through with 17/18 players if you want, but you’ll have a bunch of really tired blokes at the end of the year.
“I think we’ve planned in a pretty positive way to give everyone an opportunity throughout the year.
“At the moment, there’s nobody being left out for performance reasons. It is to make sure our energy levels are maintained.”
Carvell has signed for Tigers until the end of the season, after being released by Hull. He could replace Huby tonight and Powell said: “He’s played at Hull, as have Andy Lynch and Scott Wheeldon.
“We’ve quite a lot of ex-Codheads in our squad and they’ll be looking forward to it. It’s always a tough place to go, whether they are going well or not.
“We know it’s going to be a difficult game and there’s some players in there with real motivation leading into it.”
Gareth Ellis, Setaimata Sa and Kirk Yeaman are set to return for Hull, with Jack Logan dropping out from last week’s team.
Hull from: Shaul, Lineham, Whiting, Yeaman, Talanoa, Abdull, Rankin, Bowden, Houghton, Green, Westerman, Hadley, Watts, Cunningham, Paleaaesina, Paea, Thompson, Sa, G Ellis.
Castleford Tigers from: Dixon, Shenton, Dorn, Sneyd, Lynch, Milner, Millington, Hauraki, Massey, Clark, Holmes, Mariano, Wheeldon, J Ellis, Gibson, Clare, Finn, Jewitt, Carvell.
Referee: James Child (Batley).
Kick-off: Tonight, 8pm.