Castleford Tigers hooker Jacques O'Neill joins casualty list three weeks ahead of Challenge Cup final meeting with St Helens

Three weeks out from Wembley, Castleford Tigers are sweating on a new fitness concern.

Friday, 25th June 2021, 11:45 am

Back-up hooker Jacques O’Neill was helped off the field late in Tigers’ 16-6 home loss to Catalans Dragons on Thursday.

With eight players already missing through injury, another name on the casualty list was the last thing coach Darl Powell needed ahead of the Betfred Challenge Cup final showdown with St Helens on Saturday, July 17.

O’Neill recently returned to the team after an injury layoff and Powell reported: “It looks like he has done his hamstring.

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“It is the same hamstring he did a few weeks back.

“It is disappointing for him, I thought he was going well, both sides of the ball.

“That’s a bit frustrating and Alex Foster got a whack to his face, he will have an x-ray and I’ll keep my fingers crossed for him.

“That’s the game at the moment, it is crazy - with the amount of injuries and what we are expecting from players, it is so hard.”

Versatile Jordan Turner, man of the match in Tigers’ semi-final win over Warrington Wolves, pulled out of the Catalans game after the final training run.

“He had a slight hamstring tweak,” Powell explained.

“He’s not bad, but obviously once you get that you don’t play the week after.”

Liam Watts, who was switched from the pack to stand-off, took a bang to a shoulder and Powell said: “We’ll wait and see, but I think he will be okay.”

With Turner, Jake Trueman, Gareth O’Brien, Paul McShane and Peter Mata’utia all unavailable, plus Grant Millington who has played there in the past, Watts was eighth-choice for his new role.

Powell commented: “Players like him and Joe Westerman think they are stand-offs, they have got good rugby brains and they can pass the ball.

“Actually having that position is a little bit different to when you’re in the middle, people expect a bit more.

“He did his best with it, it was really hard because he didn’t train there - it was the back end of the session when Jordan Turner pulled out.

“It is pretty impossible to piece a team together the way we are at the moment.

“Jason Qareqare got contact traced from his school and that was after the team run.

“It is ridiculous, but it is what it is at the moment - the world’s crazy, rugby league’s crazy.

“It was a really tough game [on Thursday] and I thought we battled so hard.”

Despite all the problems before and during the game, Powell was “proud” of his players’ effort.

“From an attacking point of view we couldn’t quite pull our game together, for obvious reasons, but physicality-wise we were awesome, so I was really pleased with that,” he said.

Tigers face a Cup final rehearsal at home to Saints on Wednesday.

“We just need to get a team together that looks something like,” Powell said. “Whenever we’ve done that this year we’ve been really good.”