Castleford Tigers boss Daryl Powell reckons his team’s top four pretensions are set for a serious test when they travel to play early season high flyers Hull tonight.
Powell rates the Hull FC team highly and is anticipating a tough challenge for his team at the KC Stadium in their first Sky live game of the new Super League season.
With Hull having won well against Salford and Catalans and the Tigers still unbeaten with a win over Wakefield and a draw at Hull KR something has to give and Powell is looking for his team to step up on their previous efforts to beat opponents he sees as real top four rivals.
He said: “This is our biggest test so far.
“I still don’t quite know what happened at the end at Hull KR, but we were good against Wakefield. But this is a big challenge for us against Hull.
“We have talked a lot about top four and these are the defining moments when you play against teams like this, even though it is still early days.
“When you play against the better teams you find out a lot about yourselves in games like this.
“I am pretty sure Hull will be saying some of the same things, though they will feel they have answered a lot of questions with the win against Catalans away.”
Hull’s impressive start has not surprised Powell.
He said: “I thought they would go well. If you look at their recruitment you have got to say that has been pretty good.
“They have signed some high-profile players and look really strong.
“They were really good against Catalans and they put Salford away pretty easily - and they have been good since. The competition as a whole is really interesting at the moment.”
Powell outlined the threat posed by a Hull side that appears to have been significantly added to in the off season with some big signings.
He said: “They have a number of danger men.
“I like Talanoa, I just think he’s a handful. Tuimavave looks good as well so that left edge, alongside Pritchard when he’s on there, is strong.
“The back rowers are really strong. Minichiello’s a handful of a player, Pritchard, Sika Manu, they’ve got good players in the back row.
“Obviously Sneyd and Pryce are playing pretty well at half-back, you can see they’ve had a year under their belt.
“Shaul looks sharp – you go through their team and they just look a good side.
“The pack’s well balanced, it’s big. So we know we’ve got a challenge on our hands.
“They look strong across the board. They look like they are together.
“Lee Radford has done a pretty good job in terms of that. He copped a fair bit of stick, but he has held firm and he has got to be applauded for the way he has pulled this team together.”
Powell is expecting a huge battle up front with both sides boasting strong packs.
He said: “I like our pack as well. I think they play a similar way to us.
“Obviously they’ve taken Westerman out and it’s sort of balanced out a bit more across the pack in terms of the work that they are doing.
“Jordan Thompson is doing a good job in there and looks pretty sharp. Liam Watts is a big player for them, Taylor’s gone back there and looks good. Houghton’s a really good player.
“They just look well balanced and I think they’re going to be a threat to everybody this year.”
Powell reckons Hull could be genuine title contenders this time round.
He added: “They look like they have got the players. Obviously it depends on injuries and durability as you go through the season, but they certainly look like they are going to be a threat.
“We are hoping we are going to be a challenge this year as well, so these games become important.
“Even though they are early in the season, they are crucial games.”