Starts do not come much tougher than St Helens away for Castleford Tigers, but head coach Daryl Powell believes it can bring the best out of his players to be tested straight away.
Although the Tigers have not won at St Helens since 1992 Powell reckons they are ready to end their run when the teams meet at the Totally Wicked Stadium tomorrow night in a tasty opening round fixture in the Betfred Super League.
He told the Express: “A tough start like this forces you to be at your best from round one.
“I think it’s a statement game and they will see it as the same. It’s a big one.
“They are being tipped to finish first so let’s go. We are looking forward to it.
“If you go to Saints you know it’s going to be a tough game. We haven’t won there for 20-odd years in the league. We were there pre-season last year and won, but we are going to have to play well if we are to beat them.
“It should be a motivation that we haven’t won there for so long. I don’t think it should be an issue or a mental block. We are in a place now where we are capable of winning wherever we go – that’s been our mentality for a few years now.
“It’s a difficult place to go and win, but there aren’t many places where it is impossible to win so we’ve just got to go and play to our potential. Make sure we look after Saints’ quality players and we are able to impart our way of playing on them and then we will be confident.”
Powell accepts the Tigers will face a big test against a Saints side that finished last season impressively.
He said: “I went to watch them last Friday against Leigh and they are doing some smart things with the ball.
“They are certainly going to put you under pressure and Ben Barba round the back is very dangerous and very different because of the way he runs.
“James Roby’s an outstanding player and I really respect him as a player, I thought he was great in the World Cup. With the likes of Alex Walmsley, Mark Percival and Tommy Makinson they’ve got dangerous players wherever you look. But I look at us and I think we’re the same, I think we’re dangerous all across the field.
“We’ve got an embedded way of playing that people are comfortable with and we are in a good place. We are ready now.”
Castleford have been involved in some thrilling games with St Helens in recent years, including the golden point semi-final when they last met, and Powell reckons tomorrow’s match has all the ingredients to be another cracker.
He added: “We’ve have had a couple of late wins down here against them, we beat them with drop-goals twice.
“They were great games and there’s been others against Saints. They play in a certain way, which is attractive to the eye and difficult to defend against, and we are similar. We play a little bit differently to them and the styles make for an exciting game of rugby league.”