CASTLEFORD Tigers coach Ian Millward has named a strong provisional squad for the Boxing Day bash with Bradford Bulls with three close season signings set to make their debut.
Centre Josh Griffin, who has arrived from Huddersfield, former Leigh prop Steve Nash and on-loan back rower Lee Mitchell, from Warrington, are all in a 21-man squad that will mix established first teamers with youngsters looking to make their first impression in the senior team.
Millward explained that all the fully fit senior players were set to get a run out with the exception of half-backs Rangi Chase and Danny Orr.
Chase misses his first Boxing Day game since joining the Tigers after being given extra time off over the holiday period following his exertions in the Gillette Four Nations tournament with England.
Half-back partner Orr is being kept for later games, but his absence will give fans a chance to see exciting young talent Ben Johnson, who looks set to start at scrum-half after being handed the number seven shirt for the game.
With Richard Mathers now on a season-long loan at Wakefield Wildcats, Richard Owen will start at full-back as he looks to press his claims for a regular spot at number one. Ryan McGoldrick, meanwhile, is likely to play at stand-off and he is the most experienced player in a back division that also includes academy stars Josh Atkins and James Clare on the wings and Jordan Thompson and debutant Griffin in the centres.
Highly rated youngsters Daryl Clark, Adam Milner, Oliver Holmes and Nathan Massey – who have all signed new contracts since the end of last season – have their first chance to impress the new head coach, but there is also room in the squad for experienced players Ryan Hudson, Stuart Jones and Steve Snitch along with several from the academy who have yet to taste first team action at the Probiz Coliseum.
Millward wants the Boxing Day game to be a good workout and is looking forward to his first Cas game in charge.
He said: “Our biggest concern is availability, but we’re not looking at resting people.
“Danny Orr won’t play because he’s had a little bit of a calf problem and he’s just returned in the last couple of weeks into our full-time training so I don’t want to jeopardise that. Obviously with his age and experience we’ve got to look after him too for the long term.
“Rangi’s not going to play because he played in the internationals. Most internationals don’t return to training until January, but we’ve been bringing him in a couple of days a week.
“Everyone else who’s fit will play on Boxing Day.
“It’s important for some of the younger guys who train with the squad. It’s all very nerve wracking when you start a full-time career and get involved with the professional players and it’s a great chance for them to get some credibility on Boxing Day.
““I’m looking forward to seeing how they go and the areas we need to continue to advance in their game.”
The Boxing Day game kicks off at 1pm and tickets are priced at £13 for adults and £6 for concessions.
The full provisional 21-man squad is:
1 Richie Owen, 2 Josh Atkins, 3 Jordan Thompson, 4 Josh Griffin, 5 James Clare, 6 Ryan McGoldrick, 7 Ben Johnson, 8 Steve Nash, 9 Ryan Hudson, 10 Nathan Massey, 11 Oliver Holmes, 12 Lee Mitchell, 13 Stuart Jones, 14 Daryl Clark, 15 Adam Milner, 16 Zac Snellgrove, 17 Jack Smith, 18 John Davies, 19 Steve Snitch, 20 Chris Simms, 21 Daniel Holmes.