BOTH COACHES are looking forward to seeing tough graft put into practice when Castleford Tigers play host to Featherstone Rovers tomorrow.
Tigers’ Daryl Powell and his Rovers opposite number Andy Hay say they have worked their players hard in pre-season and the opening warm-up fixture will give them an opportunity to see if preparations are on course for the new campaign.
“It will be good to get a game under our belt,” Powell said.
“It will give us a reference point as to how individuals and the team are going, so we’re looking forward to it.”
Tigers’ side includes six new signings, with Denny Solomona, Steve Crossley, Junior Moors, Matt Cook, Mike McMeeken and Scott Moore all set to feature.
“It is a great opportunity for them to get a feel and a taste of how we play and the ground and a great chance for the fans to see the new signings in action,” Powell added.
“The Christmas games are great for that. We’ve also got a couple of young blokes who will want to go well and some experienced players, so we’ve got a good balance in the squad.”
Youngsters set to feature include full-back Ash Robson, winger Jordan Howden, England academy forward Will Maher, hooker Brandon Moore, under-19s captain Tom Holmes and back-rower Brandon Westerman, cousin of Hull’s ex-Tigers star Joe Westerman.
Powell said he is relishing seeing his players put into action what they’ve been working on in practice.
“Things are going well, we’ve had a camp and stepped training up in the lead-up to Christmas,” he stated.
“The boys have had a couple of tough weeks and they look good, but obviously we want to get the boys out on the field and see how they go.
“I like the fact it is on Sunday, not Boxing Day – it gives us another couple of days’ preparation and it gives the players chance to get Christmas out of the way.”
Powell admitted neither side will be at their peak, but he is predicting a competitive clash.
“It’s a local derby and it should be pretty spicy,” he said. “We want to get a good hit out. It’s pretty early in pre-season – bang in the middle – so we won’t read too much into it.
“We drew with Halifax last year and I would expect us to be a bit better. We have got a lot of miles on the clock in terms of how we play, so we should be better placed.”
Hay is also keen to see if good preparation translates into a positive performance.
“The players are looking forward to it more than anyone, just to have a game,” he said. “They’ve done all the training and worked hard and they are looking forward to playing, especially against Castleford, which is a big opportunity for most of them.
“For me, I’m looking forward to seeing the players’ performances and their attitude more than anything else.
“That has been very good in training. They have trained hard and been in a lot of days, probably more than they have been previously.
“They’ve done five days a week on top of their day jobs and that has been tough, but they’ve applied themselves really well.
“They have done everything they’ve been asked to do, there’s been a massive lift in their strength and fitness and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can get out of the game.”
Hay isn’t expecting too much from his team in terms of skills with the ball in hand. He said: “We aren’t going in with a massive game plan. We’ll put a few combinations together and see how the new guys fit into the team.”
Castleford Tigers: Robson, Clare, Channing, Solomona, Howden, Tansey, Finn, Crossley, Milner, Moors, Cook, McMeeken, Wheeldon. Subs: S Moore, Gibson, Holmes, Maher, Massey, B Moore, Westerman.
Featherstone Rovers from: Johnson, Blackmore, Minns, Cording, Sharp, Sykes, G Moore, James, Ellis, Baldwinson, Lockwood, Foster, Bussey. Subs: Coventry, Tonks, Walmsley, Hardman, Newbould, Irwin, Milner, Teasdale, Merchant.
Referee: Richard Silverwood.
Kick-off: Tomorrow, 2pm.