Daryl Powell will make late calls on a number of players as he bids to put out the strongest possible Castleford Tigers line-up for the sixth round Coral Challenge Cup tie at Hull.
The Tigers head coach has been frustrated at the lack of a long cup run since taking the club to Wembley in 2014 and wants to give the competition a big go.
Cas are looking for revenge against Hull after being knocked out of the cup by them twice in the last four years, but their hopes could be hampered by injuries once again.
They went into last week’s Super League game against Warrington with 11 players out injured and a further three – Paul McShane, Mitch Clark and Daniel Smith – picked up knocks.
However, Powell is keeping his fingers crossed that he could have some other players back, including Jesse Sene-Lefao, Matt Cook and Jordan Rankin, and is hoping they can prove their fitness in today’s training session. He explained: “I’m not sure what I’ll be able to do from a team selection point of view until Friday. There’ll be some late calls on players.
“We’ve had a lot of players injured and I’m hoping we’ll get a few back, but they will be late decisions.
“There’s none of the players who’ve been out I can say 100 per cent will play so it will be late Thursday, or Friday before I can make a call. I’ll put a squad out there, but I wouldn’t mind if I could put it out on Friday. We got some more injuries from the Warrington game with Mitch Clark and Dan Smith as well as Paul McShane. We’ll see how they go as we roll through the week, but it’s not ideal.
“Paul McShane’s is a rib injury or a muscle injury beneath his ribs. He’s a chance of playing, but I don’t know what chance that is until later in the week. Obviously we’ll give him every possible chance because he’s such an important player for us. I reckon it will be Friday until I know if he is all right.
“Dan Smith got a hip injury and Mitch Clark a bit of a hamstring.”
Hull also had an entire team on the sidelines for their game last week, but Powell expects them to have some key players back.
He said: “It looked to me like Albert Kelly and Marc Sneyd were rested really. They’d probably got knocks and needed a week off, but I think they’ve targeted this game. I’d expect them to play. Hull have been up and down a bit with results lately, but they’ve been similar to us in that they’ve had a lot of players missing.
“They beat us a couple of years ago when we were going well. It’s a tough draw. When you go there you know it’s going to be a difficult game, they’re usually good at home.”
Powell stressed how important everyone at the club views the Challenge Cup. He added: “This is a big game this week. It’s a slight change of focus, but a really important game as the Challenge Cup’s massive.
“It has a bit of freshness about it because you can put the table out the way.
“Obviously there’s a little bit of pressure because it’s a one-off game and you are either in or you’re out of the cup. But everybody’s looking forward to it. The week’s been relaxed and focused and we’ve had two training sessions now before our final prep run.
“We went pretty close to winning it in 2014 when Leeds were a little bit too good for us on that day and we all saw first hand what it meant to the supporters.
“You only have to look round the ground to see quite a few reminders of how important the Challenge Cup has been to this club down the years.”