Castleford Tigers are aiming to build on the promise of their first game of the new season when they tackle the world champions on Sunday.
After scoring four tries in a spirited effort in defeat against one of last year’s Super League grand finalists in Warrington, the Tigers now face the other finalists and know they need to be at their best if they are to test Leeds Rhinos in a game kicking off at the Wish Communications Stadium at 3.30pm.
Tigers head coach Ian Millward is hoping for a big crowd to help his side open their home campaign in style and promised that his players would be up for the challenge.
He told the Express: “It will be a massive atmosphere at the ground this Sunday and everyone will really enjoy it.
“It’s vital the fans get behind the team. I’m pretty sure that Leeds will come in pretty big numbers and we need the support of our fans.
“There’s not many opportunities to see a world champion team play against a team that is going to be fighting extremely hard to win.
“We’re not going into the game to make up the numbers, we’re going to compete.
“We understand it’s a derby game and things become a lot tighter because of that.”
Leeds opened their season with a big win over a Hull FC side expected to challenge for honours this year and the Cas coach saw for himself how well Brian McDermott’s played.
He said: “Leeds are not the world champions for no reason.
“I saw their opening match against Hull and they were very impressive. They showed why they are the current world champions and Super League champions.
“They beat Hull in every aspect of the game and showed why they are such a good team.”
Millward agreed there was work still to be done with his Tigers side, but was encouraged by aspects of the play against a Warrington team tipped to go all the way this year.
He said: “We got confidence out of the game, but we have to use that to continue to improve.
“They jumped on us very quickly and there were a couple of tough calls on us, which I am speaking to Stuart Cummins about, which didn’t help.
“We only had two sets in the first 15 minutes when we touched the ball. But defensively over the whole game we had a lot more physicality and backbone in us.
“Before half-time then after half-time when we got into a bit of a rhythm we more than held our own and with a bit of luck could have scored more tries and really have made the last 10 minutes interesting.
“I thought the team we had last year after the start we had would probably have disintegrated. But I felt that during the game they continued to work as a team. It was encouraging and there were a lot of positives from the first game.
“You have to remember it was Jordan Tansey’s first game for over 12 months at Super League level and he’s played no friendlies. It was also Keith Mason’s first game so there’s still a lot of improvement in us. But all the new guys were very effective.
“Obviously we’ve got to start better against Leeds. Our problem is that we are trying to bed people in while we are playing against quality opposition.”