Castleford Tigers: Powell pondering new role for Webster in back-row

Jake Webster. PIC: Matthew Merrick.

Jake Webster. PIC: Matthew Merrick.

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KIWI CENTRE Jake Webster could have to get used to a new role when he makes his Castleford Tigers return.

Webster is due to play for Tigers’ dual-registration partner club York City Knights away to Hunslet Hawks in Kingstone Press Championship One tomorrow.

It will be his first game for almost a year, since suffering a serious knee ligament injury in Tigers’ defeat at Hull KR on March 24, 2013.

Webster’s return to fitness has given Tigers coach Daryl Powell another option, but the New Zealander may have to switch into the pack to find a spot in the team.

“Jake is a high-quality player,” Powell said. “Physically he looks in good shape. He has done a lot at training and a fair bit more than he did last year, when he was struggling to get a pre-season done.

“We need to manage him in the right way, but if we get him on the field we know what he is going to deliver. But Michael Shenton is playing out of his skin – the best I’ve seen him play for a long time. He looks relaxed and he’s enjoying his rugby league.

“Michael Channing’s been excellent. He has defended exceptionally well and he looks sharp with the ball. There’s a few bits and bobs to work on, but he has done really well.

“Jake is going to be available and that will put pressure on both centres, but also the back-row. That is something I am considering with Jake, having him play in the back-row for us.”

The extra competition for places will give Tigers a lift going into tomorrow’s visit of defending First Utility Super League champions Wigan Warriors.

Tigers are looking to extend their winning start to the season to four matches and Powell said: “The players are pretty much on form at the moment and playing with a fair bit of confidence, but this is a stiff challenge for us.

“We know we’re going to have to step up a couple of levels this week.” Powell reckons Tigers have no fear of facing Wigan, a team they beat at DW Stadium last term.

“The boys look pretty relaxed and they’re enjoying what they’re doing,” he said. “It has obviously been a good start to the season for us and there’s been a massive step up attitude-wise defensively.

“That has been a key facet in what we’ve been able to do. We’ve been able to hold our line firm – last week Hull KR had 34 play-the-balls in our 10-metre area and we had 10 in theirs, but we still managed to put points on the board and to hold them out on the reverse side.

“There’s a lot of good things happening at the moment and the key is to maintain our facus and not get carried away. We keep talking about that and I don’t think the boys are.

“All the talk around the place and how hard they’re working, it looks like it’s a focused camp.”

Nathan Massey could make his first appearance of the season following injury after being named in Tigers’ initial 19-man squad. Kirk Dixon, who was left out eight days ago, is also added to the side which won at Hull KR last week.

Wigan are without Sean O’Loughlin. Ryan Hampshire, Dom Manfredi and new Bradford Bulls loan signing Greg Burke also drop out from the side which beat Wakefield last Sunday.

Matty Bowen, Josh Charnley, Dan Sarginson and Eddy Pettybourne are set to return, with Jack Hughes and ex-Cas forward Jordan James also in contention.

Castleford from: Dorn, Owen, Channing, Shenton, Carney, Sneyd, Finn, Lynch, Clark, Huby, Mariano, Hauraki, Millington, Milner, Holmes, Wheeldon, Fleming, Massey, Dixon.

Wigan from: Bowen, Burgess, Gelling, Thornley, Charnley, Green, Smith, Flower, McIlorum, Taylor, Farrell, Bateman, Tomkins, Crosby, Clubb, Sarginson, Pettybourne, Hughes, James.

Referee: Robert Hicks (Oldham).

Kick-off: Sunday, 3.30pm.

Brad Singleton

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