CASTLEFORD Tigers assistant head coach Andy Hay has assured fans that the team will be giving it a real go when they take the field against reigning Super League champions Wigan Warriors at the Probiz Coliseum on Sunday (writes Tony Harber).
Tigers came up short against another of the title contenders, Huddersfield, last Sunday, but Hay reckons they showed enough effort and ability in the first half to show that they can compete with Wigan when they come to town this week.
The game coming less than 48 hours after England’s match against the Exiles has boosted Castleford’s chances with only Rangi Chase involved from the Tigers and seven Warriors across the two squads, although Hay warned against any complacency after a similar situation a few years back.
He said: “It’s going to be a tough one, but it will be good to have them down and it should be a good game.
“It should be a good crowd as well and we hope everyone is going to get behind us as well as taking the chance to sign the petition over the ground.
“We’ll be having a good dig against them and it’s going to be interesting for us having not played them all year. It seems strange when we’ve played some sides two and three times, but we’ve not met Wigan.
“They are coming off a loss, which is quite surprising to many people, and they’ve got a few in the England and Exiles teams so whether that will benefit us or not we’ll not be sure until after the game.
“Whatever side they put out Wigan have got star quality across the board and only a few weeks ago they took Hull KR apart quite convincingly.
“But our boys are up for the challenge. They know what they’ve got to do and it’s an understatement that they are disappointed at what happened in the second half at Huddersfield.”
Hay revealed that Cas want to play star half-back Chase so long as he avoids injury in tomorrow night’s game against England.
He explained: “Assuming Rangi comes through the Exiles match all right he’ll be under consideration to play on Sunday.
“We’ll have to get a check on him on Friday night straight after the game and then get him in on Saturday morning to see the doctor and the physio.
“But if he comes through I’m sure we’ll play him. I’m sure if he is fit he’ll be telling us he wants to play as well as he always wants to play in the big games.
“Wigan have got more players involved on Friday and we don’t know what effect it will have on them.
“But no too long ago we played Leeds in a similar situation when they put a team of young kids out as England were playing over in France. We had Joe Westerman and Michael Shenton involved and they had about five, but we went up to Headingley and didn’t do very well so you can’t assume you have an advantage.
“We’ve still got to prepare for them putting their strongest team out.
“There’s a few players still left who played in that game so we will not need reminding of what can happen.”
Castleford will definitely be without prop forward Jonathan Walker after he suffered an injury on the same knee he damaged earlier in the season, while centre Willie Isa is considered still a week away and injured duo Stuart Jones and Nick Youngquest are also doubtful starters.
But Brett Ferres is expected to have recovered from a shoulder injury picked up against Huddersfield and there are several first team players chomping at the bit to be included again after being left out last weekend.
Hay said: “We’ve got plenty of players fit and ready to come back in. There’s Steve Snitch, Olly Holmes, who was rested and is ready again, Ryan Hudson and Ryan McGoldrick, who are both fit, so we’ve got options and plenty of replacements.
“We’re not short of numbers and we’re quite healthy at the minute apart from in the props where we are struggling.
“Jonny Walker has suffered a serious injury. We’re not sure yet exactly what’s wrong and he was seeing the surgeon this week, but it’s the same knee he injured earlier in the season.
“It looks like a recurrence of the previous injury and it’s a big blow. At this point with the medical advice we’re getting we’ll be lucky to see him again this year.
“It’s a blow to the team. We were struggling with the prop forwards before Jonny came back. But knowing Jonny was coming back we didn’t go into the loan market.
“Paul Jackson and Jake Emmitt had really good games on Sunday and we had four props again with Nick Fozzard. It looked quite promising and we were looking there or thereabout in the props, but Jonny in just his second game back in to get this injury has knocked us back down to three senior props with Craig Huby still out.
“We’ve got Nathan Massey, who’s had a few games in the first team, but it’s tough to throw him in against Wigan. If we have to he’ll be up for the challenge, but it’s not the ideal scenario.
“In the back row, Stuart Jones has been carrying a couple of knocks all year, but he got a crack at Huddersfield and has a rib cartilage injury.
“We’re looking at that and there is a possibility he could play. It all depends on how he feels towards the end of the week and if he’s comfortable.
“He will be missing a fair bit of training this week and will be doing a lot of rehab work and a lot of physio. We will give him every chance and probably decide on Saturday morning.
“Brett Ferres got a whack on his shoulder. It was precautionary that we brought him off (against Huddersfield) as we didn’t want to get any more injuries to our forwards. But he should be right. He’s in a lot better shape than the other two.
“He’ll be in rehab early in the week and hopefully into training later and be available for selection.
“Nick Youngquest is training again, but he reported a little bit of pain and we’re just waiting on that. We don’t want to jump in.
“Two weeks ago he put his hand up to play and he wasn’t right. Looking back he’s glad he didn’t play. We want to make it that when he does come back he’s back for the season.
“We’re just holding him until he’s 100 per cent. It could possibly be this week, it depends on what he comes into training like really.”
Whoever is selected Hay admits the side will have to step up on parts of their display against Huddersfield.
He added: “I thought it was like two different halves at Huddersfield. I’ve watched the video numerous times since and I thought the first half we really had a dig and played pretty tough, but not very smart and a few decisions didn’t go our way.
“We were in with a shout, but a couple of poor defensive reads from players who are usually pretty solid in that area led to some really soft tries.
“At half-time everybody seemed to have the belief they could go out there and do the job, but they scored the quick try and players’ heads seemed to go down a little bit.
“Not that we were soft in the second half, but we were a little bit more timid than the first half and Huddersfield are a good side so you can’t do that against them.
“There was no lack of effort, if anything it was a lack of smartness, both attack and defence.
“I thought Rangi’s kicking game was really good, but on the back of that some of our chase wasn’t as good as it should have been and we turned over some cheap ball on our kicks. Some of our defensive play one on one was poor.
“We weren’t helped by the delays. We found out about the Sky 15-minute delay before the warm-up so we just hung around the changing rooms and that wasn’t so bad.
“But just as were going out for the warm-up a guy came down from Sky and said ‘do you know you are both wearing a white kit?’
“We said ‘we are’ and as we went out for the warm-up we left it to a couple of our staff to deal with it. On returning we were told we would have to change.
“We were the away team and thought we would be wearing our away kit, but that turned out not to be the case and we had to put the old Halifax shirt on. I don’t think some of the boys had ever played in a shirt that thick.
“Although you say no excuses if you want to play for Castleford everything is drilled into you that it’s all about pride in the shirt, but that’s difficult when you are wearing some other team’s.”