Wigan Warriors v Castleford Tigers - Daryl Powell challenges Niall Evalds to prove his England class in key battle with Zak Hardaker
Full-back Niall Evalds has been challenged to prove his England credentials when Castleford Tigers visit Wigan Warriors on Thursday.
Evalds has made an outstanding start to his Tigers career, following an off-season move from Salford Red Devils.
He trained with England last week and is a contender for this autumn’s World Cup, but Tigers coach Daryl Powell reckons big games, against in-form opponents, are when Evalds will be judged.
Wigan, like Tigers, have a 100 per cent record after four competitive matches this year and much of that is down to the form of their former Castleford star Zak Hardaker.
He has been playing full-back and Powell expects him to stay there this week, despite the potential return of Bevan French, giving Evalds an opportunity to measure himself against one of England’s best.
“The challenge for Niall is to be right on top of his game and show what he’s about,” Powell stated.
“Zak is playing outstandingly well at full-back at the minute and he’s going to take a little bit of dealing with, but I think we’ve got a guy who’s going outstandingly well at the moment.
“I just want to see him go out there and express himself and do what he’s outstanding at.”
It is a similar story for Tigers as a team in what Powell reckons could be a “statement” game.
“Any time you win at Wigan it is a great performance and a big win,” Powell said.
“One of the things we are always talking about is trying to make some statements for ourselves.
“This is a key game for us and we are going to have to play outstandingly well, but I think that is in us.
“At the moment, I am really confident when we walk on to a field we are going to be super-competitive.”
Powell added: “Wigan defend exceptionally well and they come at you with a fair bit of vigour, but I do see some confidence there that I haven’t seen for a long while.
“Hopefully that’s a really good positive sign for us.”
Tigers are without Gareth O’Brien who suffered a knee injury in last Friday’s big win over Leigh Centurions, but Danny Richardson is set to return in the halves.
Jesse Sene-Lefao will serve a one-game ban. Cheyse Blair, George Griffin, Tyla Hepi, Sam Hall and Brad Martin are in contention to replace him in the 17.
Wigan coach Adrian Lam will select from the 17 who beat Leeds Rhinos last Thursday, plus French, Liam Byrne, ex-Castleford forward Mitch Clark and James McDonnell.
Wigan Warriors: from French, Hardaker, Leuluai, Singleton, Powell, Bullock, Isa, Farrell, Bateman, Partington, Smithies, Clubb, Byrne, H Smith, Harvard, Bibby, Clark, Shorrocks, McDonnell, Hanley, Hastings.
Castleford Tigers: from Evalds, Olpherts, Mata’utia, Shenton, Trueman, Richardson, Watts, McShane, Millington, Holmes, Blair, Milner, Massey, Griffin, Hepi, D Smith, Eden, Turner, Bienek, Martin, Hall.
Referee: Chris Kendall (Huddersfield).
Kick-off: Thursday, 6pm.
Support the YEP and become a subscriber today. Enjoy unlimited access to local news and the latest on Leeds United, With a digital subscription, you see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Click here to subscribe.