Castleford Tigers aim for Sunday best against St Helens

Castleford Tigers want to put on their Sunday best when they face Betfred Super League champions St Helens at the Jungle.

By Peter Smith
Saturday, 14th March 2020, 9:57 am

Tigers’ traditional match day has regularly had to take a back seat to Thursday and Friday evening fixtures and Saints’ visit will be their first Sunday home game this season.

With professional football having been wiped out due to the coronavirus outbreak, Sky Sports have made a late decision to televise the match live and forward Mike McMeeken reckons it is a golden opportunity for Tigers to show what they are all about.

“It’s always a good game against Saints and for us it’s always good to be playing at home,” McMeeken said.

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Mike McMeeken. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.

“Fans like a Sunday game and it’d be good to get a big crowd down here.”

Saints have lost twice already this year and were beaten 12-10 at home by Huddersfield Giants last week, but McMeeken knows Tigers will be facing a “quality side”.

He warned: “If you don’t turn up, Saints will punish anyone.

“We’ve been a bit off on our starts so we need to be tweaking up on them.

Tigers' celebrations will be more muted this weekend. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.

“If we can get a good start we can keep that going through the 80 minutes and give them a good contest.

“It should be a good game and we’re really looking forward to it.”

The rugby will be a welcome distraction - for players and fans - amid mounting concern about the coronavirus pandemic.

“We have a thing with handshaking, we do a lot of handshaking, but there’s a lot of waves and air fist pumps now,” McMeeken revealed.

“Everyone is a bit on edge with it, we’re not sure what’s happening, whether we can go out or can’t go out.

“Loads of people are bulk buying in the shops, but you have to get on with our lives day by day and hopefully we get used to it.

“It’s weird as we don’t know what’s happening.”

On a personal note, an eye-catching performance against the champions would underline McMeeken’s credentials for a place in England’s Ashes squad at the end of this season.

The big second-rower has been named in the first England Knights selection of 2020, but insisted he is taking things “week to week”.

He said: “I am pretty happy with how things are progressing.

“I’m just working on that in training and games, to build myself up and get myself into some form.

“England is not on my mind at the moment, I’m just trying to get myself back into some form.

“Shaun Wane [England’s new coach] has come out and said players will be picked on form and in the past they have been.

“For anyone, if you get up to England standard and form you could be selected.

“Those that have been selected are very good players and deserve to be there.”

Oliver Holmes drops out of Tigers’ squad after being injured in last week’s one-point defeat at Warrington Wolves and Calum Turner is also omitted, but Liam Watts and Alex Foster could return from injury and James Clare, Jacques O’Neill, Tyla Hepi and Bailey Hodgson are also in contention.

Lachlan Coote could make his Saints comeback and Aaron Smith is available after a one-game ban.

Castleford Tigers: from Rankin, Olpherts, Mata’utia, Shenton, Trueman, Richardson, Watts, McShane, Millington, McMeeken, Milner, Massey, Sene-Lefao, Griffin, Foster, Blair, D Smith, Clare, O’Neill, Hepi, Hodgson.

St Helens: from Coote, Makinson, Naiqama, Grace, Lomax, Fages, Walmsley, Roby, Thompson, Taia, Peyroux, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Knowles, Lees, Amor, Ashworth, Paulo, A Smith, Costello, Welsby, Dodd.

Referee: Liam Moore (Widnes).

Kick-off: Sunday, 3.30pm.