CHANGES looks set to be made to the Castleford Tigers team as boss Terry Matterson aims to plot a way to win the crunch clash with Hull FC on Saturday evening (writes Tony Harber).
Matterson admits to having some big selection decisions to make ahead of the winner take all match and knows he has to get it right with the stakes so high for both sides.
A win for Cas will clinch a top eight finish and a place in the Super League play-offs, but Hull will also have the same incentive and are likely to be backed by a big following at the Probiz Coliseum, making the game feel like another semi-final for the Tigers.
Castleford have been boosted by the definite return of two first team stars with centre Joe Arundel recovered from the hamstring strain that ended his 100 per cent appearance record, forcing him to miss the Wakefield game last week, and prop Nick Fozzard fit again after a calf injury that has kept him out of action for the last two months.
Another prop, Paul Jackson, is also on the mend from his back injury and could return after missing the last two matches, while back row forward Steve Snitch is itching for a recall against his hometown club after overcoming his injury.
With all 17 players on duty against Wakefield coming through unscathed, the coach suddenly looks like having some selection decisions to make and is pleased to be in such a position after being down to his last 17 for the recent trip to Leeds.
“I’ve got to decide which guys to leave out and which to put in the team and that’s something I haven’t been having to do enough this year,” said Matterson.
“But this week I’ve got a few tough decisions to make.
“We’ve definitely got a couple back. It looks like Nick Fozzard has come through good and Joe Arundel has recovered. Both will be available and it’s good to have numbers to choose from again
“With Paul Jackson we’ll give him as long as possible and it will be good if we can have him back as well. Steve Snitch is right in the mix as well and back available. He’s training really well and whether to pick him is one of the decisions I need to make.
“I’ve looked long and hard at the team from the Wakefield game and there’s a chance I’ll make one or two changes.
“I’ve not been happy with our last three league performances and there’s some people I’ve looked at and obviously with Nick and Joe back it’s put some pressure on some players.”
With Saturday’s game being the last at home in the regular season and possibly the last of 2011 Matterson wants a big performance to sign off with.
He said: “We’ve been pretty good at home this year and we want to continue that.
“If we get the win it means we are playing semi-final football so it’s important we do that this week and we need a good performance and to get back to what we were doing a few weeks ago.
“Our performances have fallen off for some different reasons, but there’s no excuses this week. We need to be at the top of our game against a very good Hull FC.
“Their forward pack has been leading the way and getting them on the front foot so it’s going to be a test for us.
“Preparations are going well. We’ve had a good few days and the boys have come back refreshed after their break and have done some good work. We’re really looking forward to the weekend.
“We’d love to get a home semi-final. If we win our last two games and Leeds have a hiccup and lose one of their last two games that will happen so there’s a pretty good carrot there and plenty to play for.”
Matterson will be pleased if his side give a repeat performance of the one that brought them a 20-18 victory over Hull at the KC Stadium in April.
He added: “It would be good to do the double over Hull. I thought it was one of our better performances when we won there because I thought they played pretty well.
“There was some controversy with the referee, but I thought both teams were really good that night and it was a quality game of rugby league.
“I would be delighted if we go out and play a similar brand of rugby this Saturday.
“We showed some quality defence at Hull and I’d like us to get back to that. It’s a long time ago and obviously our team’s changed a bit with the injuries, but it would be great to have a similar performance.
“We’re definitely looking to improve our defence again. In the last three league games we haven’t been good enough in that area.
“We’re hoping that having some bodies refreshed and having a few people back for selection will help, but we know we have to improve.
“Hull have been really impressive in recent weeks. They’ve changed a few things with Sean Long and Martin Gleeson out, but I’ve been impressed with what they’ve done.”