Castleford Tigers are looking to hit the ground running when they open their Super League campaign at Hull KR on Sunday after learning lessons from a poor start last year.
Head coach Daryl Powell wants his side to put a marker down straight away to show that they can back up their pre-season show of confidence with actions on the field.
While he would have preferred a home game for starters the Tigers boss believes everything is in place to enable the team to get off to a winning start.
Powell told the Express: “Obviously we’ve got a few days to get ourselves prepared for Sunday, but I think the players are ready.
“We’ve got some big challenges in front of us, but we’ve got a real good opportunity.
“The boys have been good in pre-season. We saw a couple of weeks ago against Wakefield that the players are in a good place with our game and it’s about applying it under a little bit of pressure now, when the chips are down. It’s about getting points and winning games.
“We’ve had a good look at Hull KR. We’ve seen how they’ve gone in pre-season, but we’re not going to read too much into that. It’s about us delivering an outstanding performance on the day.
“Hull KR is a really good place to go and play. They love their rugby league in Hull and it should be a great atmosphere for us to go and play in on Sunday. It’s looking like it’s going to be a sell-out and that’s great for the opening day.”
After Cas lost their first three games last year Powell stressed the importance of a better start this time.
He said: “It’s been a real focus of ours, making sure we start the season strongly.
“It is really important we perform in our opening game then back that up the week after.
“This one’s absolutely crucial in terms of getting off on the right foot this season. We just want to play well and win the game.
“We’re confident at the moment. If you look at us play the evidence is we’re confident in the way we go about our game.
“Defensively it was a step up for us against Wakefield and I’d like us to maintain that and really apply some pressure to Hull KR with the way we play the game.”
First day opponents Hull KR have had a difficult pre-season results wise, but Powell is expecting his side to face a pumped up team desperate to prove critics wrong.
He added: “We know we can go there and win. We’ve done it before, in the last couple of years. But we know it’s going to be tough. Hull KR are going to come after us early and we need to start the game well.
“Lunt and Campese are two players that have been missing for them and that means a lot of the onus falls on Albert Kelly. But the pack’s big and they’ve got a fair bit of offload in there.
“Greenwood looks like he’s improved and grown a fair bit from last year. James Green looks good and Walker. They’ve got some size there that can cause you some trouble and they’ve got some real speed on the edges as well. Kieran Dixon’s sharp, Ken Sio’s really quick and strong.
“They’ve got a good depth to their squad and some good players in key positions. Obviously they’ll be looking to Albert Kelly to play well and he looks a tidy player when he runs the ball so we need to be aware of that threat.”
Castleford are likely to travel with the same squad that faced Wakefield in the home warm-up, although Ryan Boyle has given the coach food for thought with eye catching displays in the friendlies against York and Bradford and could force his way into the team.
Powell explained: “I’ve got a couple of selections to make in the pack, but we’re looking strong.
“The only players unavailable are Nathan Massey and Frankie Mariano while Ash Robson’s picked up a disappointing knee injury that will keep him out some time, but he wouldn’t have featured at the weekend.
“Nathan is training now, but he won’t be available at the weekend. I’m hoping he’ll be available in the next couple of weeks and then I’ll have to make a decision on when it’s right for him to play in the team.”