Castleford Tigers will be making a real statement of intent if they can keep their impressive form up in the keenly anticipated Betfred Super League game at Wigan tonight, according to skipper Michael Shenton.
The Tigers have beaten other teams considered to be contenders for the grand final in Leeds Rhinos and Warrington Wolves this season, but Shenton believes that away to Wigan is another level at this time.
He said: “It is going to be a real challenge and our biggest challenge so far.
“Salford was tough in the conditions, but this coming against a quality, well-drilled team that’s got a superb culture – we know it’s a really tough place to go and they are one of the teams that’s been able to defend us really well in the past.
“We can’t go looking for too much because they will defend us, they will defend us well at times. We’ve got to be able to build a game, build a bit of pressure.
“We know that, it’s about putting it on the paddock.”
On the rivalry that has developed between the two clubs, Shenton said: “They are normally quite tasty games.
“It probably comes from 2014, maybe, but it’s not something we focus on. It’s more in the media and the fans.
“We love to beat them because they are the champion team and it puts a bit of a statement out there if you do that, but we can’t focus on that kind of stuff.
“We focus on what they’re going to bring as a team and how they are going to look to break us down and how can we break them down.
“It’s all about the belief in our camp and we go there with belief – and respect as well.
“We have massive respect for that Wigan team. They are the champions with quality players and they are playing some really good rugby this year.
“So to get the job done is going to make a statement, but for us it is just in-house focusing on what we are going to do.”
Shenton hopes the improvement in Castleford’s game this year will come to the fore.
He said: “It’s about having that mix of being able to play an expansive game like we like to do and at times rein that back in and build pressure.
“I think we’ve got to get the balance and the mix of that right and that’s where our improvement is as a team. If we can do that in the bigger games when the scorelines are tighter that’s where we can improve.
“We have to keep trying to improve our defence on the back of that and make teams come off their line.”
As captain, Shenton will be leading out the table toppers at the DW Stadium, but he insists that does not bring any extra pressure.
He added: “I don’t think about it too much, it doesn’t really matter at this time of year.
“We’ve just got to keep in the mix, that’s what’s important.
“We’ve got to keep getting the two points and play consistent. We are winning games and putting performances together. They might not be 80-minute performances, but at the end of the day there are bits of the game when we are blowing teams away, which is awesome to be part of.
“The way we play is awesome for everybody, everybody gets a fair share of the ball and gets to play and do their job. It’s a superb place to be at the moment.
“There’s some real positives in our game, but there’s lots of improvement and I think we’ll have to improve a whole heap on Thursday as well.”