CASTLEFORD Tigers could be forced to field several youngsters against Super League title contenders Warrington Wolves on Sunday after having three key players ruled out.
The Challenge Cup defeat at Featherstone proved costly in more than just the result for the Tigers with goal kicking three-quarter Kirk Dixon (pictured) and full-back Richard Owen both picking up injuries and playmaker Rangi Chase receiving a three-match ban after a challenge on Tangi Ropati that left the Rovers winger with a broken jaw.
The absence of all three as Cas get back to Super League action at the Halliwell Jones Stadium is presenting head coach Ian Millward with a selection headache and with first choice centre Joe Arundel also still out he has problems to solve right across the back division.
The adaptable Ryan McGoldrick will fill either the vacant half-back or full-back position while Academy products Jordan Thompson, Adam Milner, Josh Atkinson and James Clare are all in contention along with inexperienced Australian James Grehan, who can play centre as well as back row.
Back rower Lee Mitchell is also in line for a recall with Millward confirming that he was eligible to play against the club from which Cas signed him on loan as there was no clause put into the 12-month deal made with the Wolves for the 23-year-old.
Millward told the Express: “We’re short of numbers in the backs. It’s been like that for a while, but now we’ve lost Richard Owen with a groin injury, Kirk Dixon with a leg injury and Rangi Chase, who was put on a charge.
“Kirk definitely won’t play on Sunday and we’re not sure yet how long he’ll be out. Richie had the injury last week, but wanted to play.
“With Rangi we hold our hand up, he did make contact with the player’s head, but it wasn’t deliberate at all. We’re just really sorry that the accident occurred.”
Millward added: “There’ll be an opportunity now for some of the youngsters to come in. I’m positive we’ll bring Jordan Thompson in this week, he’ll be in the 17. Josh Atkinson will also be in the firing line and others are in the mix.”
Millward acknowledged his side now faced a difficult task to bounce back against a Warrington team capable of running up big scores.
He said: “Warrington are a real good team, but all the Super League games are tough.
“We can’t feel sorry for ourselves. We’ve got to improve on what we did last week and rather than worry about the opposition we just want to concentrate on ourselves.
“We’ve been really consistent for four weeks and we were really inconsistent at the weekend. We had a completion rate of 60 per cent against Featherstone’s 90 per cent and it’s very difficult to get momentum when you’re doing that.
“Obviously we’ve got to hold onto the ball better if we are to improve this week.
While obviously being unhappy at going out of the cup at such an early stage, Millward praised the performance of local rivals Featherstone against the Tigers.
He added: “It was disappointing that our form was really strong leading up to the game, but we just weren’t as clinical as we have been and Featherstone played very well.
“Unfortunately we haven’t put our best foot forward when we’d have liked to. We’re disappointed we’re out of the cup, but we’d like to acknowledge that Featherstone did a great job.
“There were a couple of referee’s decisions against us we thought were tough. We thought the sin-binning (of Daryl Clark) was very tough and we got penalised at a key stage when Josh Griffin was supposed to have run the bloke off.
“But at the end of the day we didn’t control the things that we could control.”