TONIGHT’S VISITORS Wakefield Trinity will offer exactly the challenge Castleford Tigers want and need in their final home game of the season, forward Mike McMeeken says.
Tigers are on a 10-game winning run against their closest rivals, but Trinity have a fifth-place finish – matching last year’s achievement – in their sights and McMeeken expects them to enter the Jungle with all guns blazing.
With Castleford gearing up for a semi-final, probably away to in-form Wigan Warriors, in two weeks’ time, McMeeken reckons that will be ideal preparation.
“The last two seasons they’ve been good and they’ve been pushing for that top-four spot,” he warned of Trinity.
“They are in the Super-8s for a reason. They have a big, strong pack and the backs are strong as well.
“They have got a lot of points in them so it’ll be a test for us and something we will take a lot from.
“Wakey are always a tough side for us to play and it’s a local derby so it’s not so much the points, it’s the pride around the place.
“The fans want the win and we want another win to get a bit more confidence.”
Tigers are aiming for a fifth successive victory, but getting ready for the play-offs is most important, according to McMeeken.
“Leading into the Super-8s we just wanted to make sure we were hitting some form for the semi-final,” he added.
“Whoever we play we know it’s going to be a tough game. Getting that spot in the top-four was a big boost for us and it’s now down to us to start building some confidence for the semi-final.
“We are working on getting our combinations right and getting our moves nailed down.
“When we get to that semi-final we are 80 minutes from the Grand Final so it’s a massive thing to play for and you can’t go into it below par.”
McMeeken admitted: “Towards the back end of last year I would say we weren’t as in form as we are now, in terms of personnel and as a team.
“We probably took our foot off the gas a bit because we were pretty comfortable at the top. We had a lot to play for last year, but now we’ve been to Old Trafford and tasted that disappointment and it’s something we want to go and change come October.
“Everyone is working hard in training to achieve that goal.”
McMeeken says Tigers are not daunted by the prospect of having to visit Wigan Warriors in a sudden-death play-off.
Cas have been beaten at DW Stadium twice this season, but McMeeken stressed: “Whoever you play it’s always going to be tough.
“You’re never going to have an easy semi-final. We are going to make sure we are ready for them. It’s not a place we fear to go.”
Scrum-half Luke Gale has recovered from a side strain which kept him out of last week’s win over Huddersfield Giants and will return for Tigers tonight. He and Will Maher are added to an otherwise unchanged 17.
Castleford Tigers: from Clare, Clark, Eden, Gale, Maher, Massey, Mata’utia, McMeeken, McShane, Millington, Milner, Minikin, Moors, Roberts, Sene-Lefao, Shenton, Trueman, Watts, Webster.
Wakefield Trinity: from Annakin, Arona, Arundel, Ashurst, Batchelor, Crowther, England, Grix, Hampshire, Horo, Huby, Jones-Bishop, Kirmond, Lyne, Miller, Pauli, Randell, Tupou, Wood.
Referee: Gareth Hewer (Whitehaven).
Kick-off: Tonight, 7.45pm.