Castleford Tigers boss Daryl Powell admits to having a selection headache of the right kind ahead of tonight’s game against new Super League leaders St Helens.
Star winger Justin Carney and forward Matt Cook, both impressive before being sidelined, are available again after injury, but who to leave out will be a tricky decision after the Tigers made it three wins on the spin when turning over Leeds Rhinos at Headingley.
Head coach Powell is keeping the final 17 to himself, but has named Carney and Cook in the initial 19-man squad and is pleased that after all the injuries the team has suffered this year he now has options.
He said: “I’ve got some selection issues, which has changed a bit – a couple of games ago we only had 19 players.
“It’s good we’re getting some players back, which will potentially freshen us up.
“You want to be able to select from as much as your squad as possible. It keeps players on their toes and drives performance standards. That’s the reason why from the start of me coming here I’ve tried to build a squad that helps us manage difficult situations.
“Since Justin’s been out we’ve managed a tough situation. Denny Solomona’s just come back into the team and scoring tries at the moment. Ash Gibson’s done a really good job and they’ve both played pretty well, as has James Clare when he’s been out there.
“But I keep saying Justin’s one of our elite players and he was playing outstandingly well before he got that injury. It’s been a fair while him out of the squad so it’s good to see him back. He’s a nightmare when he’s injured.
“It will be great to have him back. He’s a high quality player and hopefully he can kick off from where he finished.”
Castleford have lost their last 15 games against St Helens, but Powell is not concerned by the past record.
He said: “I can’t remember when we last beat them, but it was a while since we had beaten Leeds at Headingley.
“We were pretty unlucky against them last year, as we were against Leeds, but none of that really matters, it’s about what happens now.
“For us, we need to perform well individually. We’ve got a lot of players who are getting a bit of a groove about the way they play and if we can put all that together as a team then we can really challenge St Helens.
“They are going well. Obviously it was a big win for them last week against Wigan and they have probably got Luke Walsh back. He’s a smart player, so it’s going to be a challenge for us.
“It would be real good if we can knock off the leaders for the second week running.
“We’ve got a little bit of consistency now and won our last three and we’ve got quite a few players who are playing close to the top of their game.
“We’ll have a little bit of an influx from players who have been injured and will give us a little bit of a spark. I’m looking forward to the challenge.”