THEY ARE in blistering form, but coach Daryl Powell reckons tonight’s trip to Huddersfield Giants is a huge test for his Castleford Tigers side.
Tigers will go four points clear at the top of Betfred Super League if they win at third-bottom Giants, but they will have to do it the hard way.
Cas are without full-back Zak Hardaker, scrum-half Luke Gale and second-row Mike McMeeken on England duty and stand-off Ben Roberts could be sidelined for around two weeks with a groin injury.
Powell admitted that will make it tough for Tigers, who thrashed champions Wigan Warriors 54-4 at the Jungle last week.
“It is an important game for us and an exciting challenge,” he insisted. “We are missing a few of our better players so it’s an interesting one.”
Powell admitted losing players for a mid-season Test in Australia is “not ideal”, but stressed: “We’ll just crack on with it.
“We’ve got a good squad out and we’ll go there confident of getting some points.
“There’s a great opportunity for some players who haven’t played as much this year, or are coming in for the first time, to do well.
“It gives them an opportunity to put themselves forward and it challenges our squad-depth to see where we are at.”
Former Leeds Rhinos and Featherstone Rovers forward Alex Foster could make his Tigers debut along with ex-Hull KR back-rower Kevin Larroyer, who has been on loan at Bradford Bulls.
There’s a great opportunity for some players who haven’t played as much this year, or are coming in for the first time, to do well.Castleford Tigers’ coach, Daryl Powell
Half-back/hooker Tom Holmes has been recalled from a loan spell at Batley Bulldogs and three-quarter Kieran Gill brought back from a similar stint with Oldham.
Greg Eden could switch to full-back to cover for Hardaker and Paul McShane is an option to play alongside Rangi Chase in the halves.
“There’s some players with good versatility and the ability to play in different positions and do so really effectively,” Powell added.
“We will be relying on those players to do really well this week.”
Giants, who are without England winger Jermaine McGillvary, have won just three times this season and were dumped out of the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup by part-timers Swinton Lions less than two weeks ago.
But that was with a much-changed side and Powell reckons their Super League form has been improving.
“They just lost out at Warrington and then they beat Leeds last week so they’ll be feeling a bit better about themselves,” he said.
“Danny Brough’s been pretty pivotal to the things they’ve been doing. He’s been getting all over the field and getting his hands on the ball, so there’s some real challenges for us.
“[Sebastine] Ikahihifo is a handful with the ball and they’ve got some really good players. They’ve got some young players who’ve been coming into the side and doing really well for them. They will see this as an opportunity and they’ll really come after us.”
Huddersfield Giants: from Mamo, Murphy, Brough, Rapira, Hinchcliffe, Wakeman, Ferguson, Leeming, Ikahihifo, Roberts, Clough, Mason, Smith, Ormsby, S Wood, McIntosh, Simpson, Mellor, O’Brien.
Castleford Tigers: from Chase, Cook, Eden, Foster, Gill, T Holmes, Larroyer, Lynch, Massey, McShane, Millington, Minikin, Milner, Monaghan, Moors, Sene-Lefao, Shenton, Springer, Webster.
Referee: Ben Thaler (Wakefield).
Kick-off: Tonight, 8pm.