Daryl Powell is demanding a big improvement all round from his Castleford Tigers players when they travel to Emerald Headingley to take on Leeds Rhinos tonight.
In a battle of two wounded animals following their hugely disappointing Challenge Cup exits the Tigers are looking to begin to get their season back on track and the head coach is expecting a reaction from the players after labelling last week’s display as unacceptable.
Powell said: “I thought before last week we’ve been okay. Even though we obviously haven’t won the games we wanted to we’ve been pretty stripped with injuries and we’ve been hanging in and losing tight games.
“But last week was a bit different, I didn’t enjoy the game at all and we need to learn some pretty harsh lessons from that and then move on and be much better in all areas.
“Sport has a way of reminding you that hard work is probably the most important area of everything and I’d like to see us put that right this week.
“If we play well we are confident we can put them under pressure, but we can’t do what we did last week.
“Some of the things we did then were criminal. We are aware of it, we’ve had a couple of pretty harsh meetings.
“Half-time last week wasn’t a great place to be, there was a little bit of honesty, but ultimately we’ve got a season to get into and we need to get after it.
“I am confident we will do that. The first signs should come on Thursday and we’ll take it from there.”
Castleford go into the Rhinos game on the back of four straight defeats – the first time this has happened in a season since Powell took charge – and they are looking to impose themselves on the game early on after being left with too much to do following poor starts in their last two matches.
Powell said: “We’ve started games poorly quite a few times this year, the Hull game, Warrington last week, the Leeds and Wigan games not too long ago. They are games when we haven’t come out of the changing rooms in a positive way. We’ve got to look at ways to sort that out.
“We’ve highlighted that with the players and they are well aware of it. We need to move on and get out there this week and start the game really well.
“It’s something we’ve been great at in the past, but at the moment it’s something that’s eluding us a little bit.
“The disappointing thing at the moment is that motivation sometimes needs to be given to the team rather than it being internal.
“I am looking for more internal motivation and drive for the rest of this season.”
Castleford have lost another two players to injury since last week with back rower Chris Clarkson and young hooker Jacques O’Neill being ruled out, but the senior players who returned to action last week came through okay.
Powell explained: “Chris Clarkson is not available from last week. He got a leg injury, but Jesse, Paul McShane and Grant Millington came through okay.
“Paul McShane probably shouldn’t have played last week, but it was an important game.
“I think I’ll have to call on another debutant for the squad this week. Jacques O’Neill got a head knock in training and he would have been 19th man.”