Daryl Powell is expecting a good test for his players when Castleford Tigers kick-off their Super League preparations against his former club, Featherstone Rovers, in the traditional Boxing Day match at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle (kick-off 1pm).
The Tigers head coach has included several first teamers for the game along with a smattering of youngsters and all bar one of his new recruits and they will come up against a Rovers side containing plenty of experience and a number of ex-Cas players.
Powell told the Express: “I think it will be a tough game. Obviously we’ve got a mix and Featherstone have put a pretty strong squad out so it should be a good test for us.
“They are at the top end of the Championship and they’ve got a lot of experienced players.
“They’ve got some former Castleford players and some from our recent history too so they will be looking to play well.
“They’ve got their own competitive squad and they’ll be coming after us.
“It will be a real tough game for us to play and hopefully a good crowd and good atmosphere. Boxing Day’s been traditionally big and rugby league’s been traditionally big over this time of year so it should be a good turn-out.”
Castleford’s players are keen to get back out on the field after almost two months of pre-season training and Powell has challenged them to put a marker down for the start of the season proper.
He said: “Once pre-season is six or seven weeks in players tend to be looking to play a game and it gives you a good gauge of where you’re at with the work you’ve been doing pre-season.
“It’s a bit of a mix we’ll have out and quite a few new players in there, which is always good to see.
“There’s guys who have been given an opportunity to put a marker down for what’s coming up. The season’s not far away now and it soon comes round.
“It’s one of the few opportunities in pre-season games that players have got this time so from that perspective it’s an important game. We’ve only got three pre-season games this year – not many at all – which is down on what we’ve had in the past so the key is to make your chances count.”