TOMORROW’S VISIT of Catalan Dragons will be a significant step up for Castleford Tigers.
Coach Daryl Powell reckons his side will be given a “good challenge” in their eagerly-anticipated First Utility Super League home opener.
Tigers began their campaign with an ultimately convincing 36-18 victory at Bradford Bulls six days ago, but Powell expects them to need a better performance tomorrow.
“We had a good win last week, but this will be a fair step up,” Powell predicted.
“Catalan lost to Hull last week, but they have got pretty good players all across the field. They are a very physical team and a big team and we will have to deal with that threat.
“Whoever they’ve got in the halves will be a real threat, they’ve got some pace and they have recruited well, so it will be a good challenge for us.”
Powell admitted it is vital his men get off to a positive start on their own turf.
“Getting the first win of the season was really crucial,” he said. “This is a really important game as well, our first at home.
“We want to maintain a good feeling around the place and to do that we have got to have a good performance.”
Tigers will still be without several long-term casualties – and Powell admitted he has no idea when veteran Lee Gilmour will be available for selection. Gilmour has not played a competitive game since suffering a shoulder injury in Powell’s first game in charge, away to Catalan last May.
He featured in the Boxing Day draw with Halifax, but Powell revealed: “He hurt his knee, he had an operation and then he got an infection.
“He was in hospital for about five days. It was a really unfortunate set of circumstances and we haven’t got a time scale for when he will be back.”
Jake Webster, sidelined since suffering a major knee injury last March, is getting close to his comeback, but Nathan Massey (groin) is still around a month away from returning to action and Ryan Boyle (knee reconstruction) is unlikely to feature before April.
Powell said all three could be offered to dual-registration partner club York City Knights in a bid to gain match fitness when they are cleared to resume playing.
A decision is expected shortly on whether Tigers will retain ex-Hull scrum-half Brett Seymour, who joined them on trial in the off-season.
Tigers have options in the halves, but Seymour could find an opening at Bradford Bulls after Jarrod Sammut moved to Wakefield and Lee Gaskell suffered a knee injury in the win at Wildcats two days ago.
Powell said: “We have got good options, Marc Sneyd has come in on loan and settled in really well and Liam Finn has done exceptionally well to slot in.
“We’ve also got Luke Dorn, who played full-back last week and Jamie Ellis coming back from injury and they are all good players.
Powell will make at least one change to the side which won at Bradford, with Jordan Tansey coming into the initial 19-man squad in place of Luke Dorn (groin). Richard Owen and Jamie Ellis are on stand-by.
Catalan are without Thomas Bosc and the suspended Olivier Elima, but Scott Dureau and Brent Webb could return from injury and Julian Bosquet and Antoni Maria are also in contention.
Castleford Tigers from: Tansey, Dixon, Channing, Shenton, Carney, Sneyd, Finn, Lynch, Clark, Huby, Holmes, Hauraki, Millington, Milner, Mariano, Wheeldon, Fleming, Ellis, Owen.
Catalan Dragons from: Escare, Oldfield, Pomeroy, Millard, Cardace, Pryce, Dureau, Paea, Henderson, Lima, Taia, Whitehead, Mounis, Pelissier, Fakir, Baitieri, Maria, Bosquet, Webb.
Referee: Tim Roby (Preston).
Kick-off: Tomorrow, 3.30pm.