How Castleford Tigers’ Gareth O’Brien is shaping up to play in next month’s Wembley Challenge Cup final

CHALLENGE CUP hero Gareth O’Brien is on course to play at Wembley next month, says Castleford Tigers coach Daryl Powell.

Wednesday, 23rd June 2021, 6:00 pm
Castleford Tigers' drop-goal hero Gareth O'Brien is on the mend and likely to play in next month's Challenge Cup final at Wembley. Picture: Bruce Rollinson/JPIMedia.

O’Brien, whose golden-point drop goals won Tigers’ opening two ties, was on crutches after being hurt in the derby win at Wakefield Trinity last week.

He is not in the squad for Thursday night’s home Betfred Super League game against Catalans Dragons, but Powell reported: “He is not too bad.”

Tigers face St Helens in the Cup final on Saturday, July 17 and Powell is confident O’Brien will be available, along with fellow pivot Jake Trueman who is also currently sidelined, with a back problem.

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Castleford Tigers head coach, Daryl Powell. Picture: Tony Johnson/JPIMedia.

“It is not the disaster it looked like initially,” Powell said of O’Brien’s injury.

“I am hopeful he is going to be okay in the next couple of weeks or so. He should be okay [for the Cup final].”

Pete Mata’utia, Suaia Matagi and Paul McShane also drop out from the team that beat Wakefield. Mata’utia and Matagi are in the Combined All Stars squad for tomorrow’s international, when McShane will make his England debut.

Powell insisted he is “absolutely delighted” for the reigning Man of Steel, though losing three key players has added more pressure to his injury-hit squad.

Gareth O'Brien, limping from the field after Castleford Tigers' recent win over Wakefield Trinity. Picture: Tony Johnson/JPIMedia.

“I think he felt like it might have slipped away from him,” Powell said of McShane’s England call-up.

“He just needed the coach who would believe in him in the international squad and he has got that now.

“He is going to get a great opportunity and it’s down to Paul now. I am confident he will take it, he has been a phenomenal player over a few years now and I couldn’t be any prouder.”

The international clashes with a full round of Super League matches and Powell added: “I don’t think it is great you are trying to run it around the Super League competition, especially with the turnarounds now.

Castleford Tigers' reigning Super League Man of Steel Paul McShane is set to make his England debut against the Combined Nations All Stars. Picture: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com.

“I understand fully Shaun [Wane, England’s coach] would want to get a game in there, but you can’t have everything.

“It should have been a stand-alone fixture, but it is what it is, we’ve just got to crack on and put the best team we can out there, which is going to be interesting.”

Tigers have recalled forward Tyla Hepi from a loan spell at York City Knights and he could feature tonight, but Powell admitted constant changes are making things difficult.

“We are lacking a bit of direction at the moment,” he said. “We are pulling people from different positions and slotting them in.

“That has been a constant for us, as a coach you just want a bit of consistency.

“That’s massive for us at the moment, I can’t overstate how tough it is picking a team week to week and having no consistency of selection.

“The boys are doing a great job with it, they are battling through, but it is pretty tough and we have got a big game in front of us now, against the top of the table.

“They are going really well, they are a big physical outfit and we have to front-up defensively.”

Castleford Tigers: from Evalds, Olpherts, Shenton, Richardson, Watts, Holmes, Milner, Massey, Griffin, Foster, O’Neill, Clare, Smith, Turner, Bienek, Peachey, Martin, Hall, Graham, Qareqare, Hepi.

Catalans Dragons: from Mourgue, Langi, Whare, Yaha, Maloney, Drinkwater, Dudson, Bousquet, Whitley, McMeeken, Da Costa, Jullien, Seguier, Goudemand, Belmas, Laguerre, Baitieri, Chan, Kasiano, Rouge, Franco.

Referee: Chris Kendall (Huddersfield).

Kick-off: Today, 7.45pm.

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