Castleford Tigers flier James Clare welcomes competition for places as star duo Sosaia Feki and Greg Eden near fitness

Castleford Tigers winger James Clare says he will be happy to fight for his place when Betfred Super League resumes.

By Peter Smith
Sunday, 21st June 2020, 9:14 am

Clare has scored four tries in five games for Tigers this year, but competition for wing spots is set to intensify following the Covid-19 shutdown.

Sosaia Feki, a star off-season signing from Cronulla Sharks, is likely to be available after the calf injury which has delayed his Tigers debut.

And Greg Eden, having not played since damaging a knee in the round one win over Toronto Wolfpack in February, is also expected to come into contention for Castleford’s first game back.

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James Clare on the attack against St Helens in Tigers' final game before the Covid-19 shutdown. Picture by Tony Johnson.

Clare dropped down the pecking order from squad number two last year to 21 after Feki and Derrell Olpherts were recruited, but insisted he is pleased his injured teammates and rivals are on the mend.

“They are two key players for us who can hopefully get back and create a bit of competition for places,” Clare said of Feki and Eden.

“I know it’s almost a cliche, but genuinely when you’ve got somebody - whether in front of you or behind you - and they are pushing you to become better, making you keep hold of your spot or making you work harder in training to get their spot, it actually works for me.

“For me personally that competition is something massive, it gets the best out of me and I’m sure it gets the best out of other players as well.”

James Clare scores a spectacular try during Tigers' win at Hull KR this year. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.

The break because of coronavirus has had a benefit for Clare, allowing him to spend time with his five-month-old son Arthur.

Tigers’ squad are on furlough and organised training has been banned since March, but of training alone, Clare insisted he has “enjoyed the personal challenge”.

He said: “You play a game of rugby and sometimes you are a bit bashed and a bit injured and you are almost limping through training thinking about the next game; you just want to get yourself right for the next game and you don’t always get an opportunity to improve yourself during the training period.

“This is probably the first time in my entire career when I’ve been going to training and having an opportunity to do some different things you wouldn’t normally do and see how your body adapts to it and really try and challenge yourself mentally and physically to become a bit fitter.

Sosaia Feki could make his debut in Tigers' first game after coronavirus. Picture by Tony Johnson.

“I have enjoyed it because it’s nice to wake up without feeling a bit battered and bruised and you can kind of attack the training the way you want to do it.”

The competition is expected to resume in August and Clare said: “I’ve done a little bit of running with a couple of lads since lockdown rules have lifted slightly and you can meet six people now outside your household.

“There’s a couple of us who live close together and we’ve trained and run together, but we’ve not passed the ball yet.

“That’s one thing I am dying to do, but it has been nice to run alongside other people.

“I can’t wait to just start doing a bit with my friends.

“I am a winger so I don’t enjoy tackling, but passing a ball with each other will be good.”

Castleford are second in the table and Clare is confident they can pick straight up from where they left off.

He said: “We’ve done a few team activities on WhatsApp and things like that.

“We even had a bit of a virtual team drink together so for a group that’s so far apart in some respects, we have almost grown a bit closer together during recent times with the activities we’ve been doing and the fun and banter we’ve had.

“Hopefully we can keep that momentum going. We were on a bit of a roll, but it has been an opportunity for us to hopefully get some players back from injury."

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