Castleford Tigers v Catalans Dragons - We are going into the unknown says Daryl Powell
Castleford Tigers can go top of Betfred Super League this weekend, but boss Daryl Powell admits his side are taking a leap in the dark.
Saturday's home game against Catalans Dragons, being played behind closed doors at Emerald Headingley in Leeds, is Tigers’ first since a 28-14 win over champions St Helens on March 15.
Tigers are one of four teams on eight points and the others either play on Sunday or have a bye this weekend, so there is a big prize at stake.
Powell believes his players look in good shape after three weeks’ training following coronavirus, but they will be getting a first taste of rugby league’s new rules - including no scrums and six-again for infringements in the ruck - and that is an added challenge after such a long layoff.
“I think we are in a good place, but the game has changed a bit since we’ve been away and we are not going to know until we get out there and see what’s in front of us,” he said of how ready his team are.
“The six-again is going to have a big impact and as much training as we’ve done on that, you have to experience it to know what it feels like.”
Catalans have the advantage of having played last weekend, but were well below par when they lost 34-6 to St Helens.
“I saw them play last week and St Helens were too good for them,” Powell said.
“They have got a game under their belt and had a look at it, but the difficulty for them is they are on a six-day turnaround.
“They have had to fly back home and then back again here on the day. We know from going out to Catalans that is hard and those guys are having to do that consistently.
“There will be a clear motivation for them to do better this week, that always adds to it.
“From our perspective we are pretty highly motivated to want to do well in this game. We finished well before lockdown and we want to start well now.”
This weekend has been a long time coming and Powell has urged his players to make the most of their eagerly-anticipated return - for themselves and the club’s fans.
“We’re obviously pleased to be back,” he admitted. “It has been an incredibly tough period for everybody. When you are used to being in a team environment and you are around people every single day, you become isolated.
“I know so many people have had tougher situations than us, but after not being able to do your job or to train as a team - which has gradually been lifted - to get back to this point now, we just want to get going again and give our fans something to cheer about, hopefully.
“Sport is so massive in the British psyche and I think everybody has missed it.”
Tigers are without Jordan Rankin, who has returned to Australia, from the side which beat Saints five months ago, plus Liam Watts, Cheyse Blair, Jesse Sene-Lefao and Daniel Smith through injury.
Oliver Holmes, Junior Moors, Greg Eden, Alex Foster, Jacques O’Neill, Lewis Peachey, Tyla Hepi, Calum Turner and Bailey Hodgson are all vying for a call-up.
Former Wigan Warriors hooker Michael McIlorum suffered a concussion last week and is unavailable for Dragons.
Players in contention for a call into their 17 are Lucas Albert, Benjamin Jullien, Antoni Maria, Arthur Romano and Mickael Goudemand.
Castleford Tigers (from): Clare, Eden, Foster, Griffin, Hepi, Hodgson, Holmes, Massey, Mata’utia, McMeeken, McShane, Millington, Milner, Moors, O’Neill, Olpherts, Peachey, Richardson, Shenton, Trueman, Turner.
Catalans Dragons: from Albert, Baitieri, Bousquet, Casty, Costa, Davies, Drinkwater, Folau, Garcia, Goudemand, Jullien, Kasiano, Langi, Maloney, Maria, Moa, Mourgue, Romano, J Tomkins, Whitley, Yaha.
Referee: Robert Hicks (Oldham).
Kick-off: Sunday, 4.15pm.
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