Castleford Tigers boss Daryl Powell admits he has a few tricky selection decisions to make ahead of his side’s opening Betfred Super League game against Catalans Dragons at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle tomorrow night.
Injuries to Oliver Holmes, Luke Gale and Jamie Ellis have left spaces to fill, but impressive performances in the pre-season game against Leeds Rhinos and some subsequent impressive training has given the Tigers head coach with difficult choices on who to leave out.
Powell is happy to have the problem, but knows he must make decisions on who plays in the back row, half-back, centre and wings.
He explained: “A massive part of the squad does pick itself at the moment, but I’ve got some decisions to make. Jesse Sene-Lefao, for example, played really well at Leeds in the back row and Alex Foster played well at centre, doing a great job on Konrad Hurrell, so I’ve got a decision to make in the back row first.
“Then there’s obviously combinations in the middle and our edges.
“Greg Eden’s trained pretty well this week and looked sharp and I’ve got to make a decision on whether he slots back in there.
“We’ve got a good squad and there’s some competition for places.
“We’ve got some good young players coming through the system, who are challenging. I hope to see some of them make their debuts or they play further games. People like Calum Turner and there’s a young kid coming through the system in Lewis Peachey, who’s a really good player, back rower or front rower. Tuoyo Egodo I’d like to see press on and do something this year.
“So there’s some competition from there and we’ve got a reasonably deep squad, particularly when you get Oli Holmes back in the mix and Will Maher available. Ben Roberts is flying and if we get Jamie Ellis back in there we look like we’ve got a deep squad that can really push each other to achieving something special this year, which is what we are all wanting to happen.”
Whoever gets the nod for the first game, Powell expects the Tigers to start the season running after describing the team’s pre-season preparations as “outstanding.”
He said: “The 2017 season was a stand-out for us and we felt we’d had a great pre-season then. We didn’t really think that last year, but this year I think we’re in a good place.
“Obviously last year we didn’t really have an embedded full-back after what had happened in 2017, but Pete Mata’utia’s embedded in there now, he’s an outstanding player for us at full-back.
“I think we’ve had a lot of players who’ve had an outstanding pre-season for us – probably the best-ever pre-season’s for some of them – so in that regard I’d say we’re in great shape.
“You look around and see that some clubs have recruited heavily. Whether recruitment beats stability we’ll find out, but I’m confident that what we’ve got as a group of players is a really good mix and an ability to be an outstanding rugby league team. We’ve seen that on numerous occasions over the last two years. We’ll see if we can do it again, but I’m confident we can.”
Powell believes Castleford have taken on board what they need to take the next step after coming so close to Super League success in the last two years.
He added: “Preparations have gone well and we played well in our one pre-season test. It’s a big challenge for us this week against a physical team in Catalans, but we’re confident, we feel we’ve done a lot of work on the areas we needed to improve and we’ll see some of whether it’s worked or hasn’t on Friday.
“I’m confident the work’s been put in by the players and we’re ready to go.”