IT is one of the toughest fixtures for any side over the Easter period but Castleford Tigers have travelled in positive mood ahead of their game at Catalans.
Daryl Powell’s squad flew out to Perpignan yesterday ahead of this evening’s contest at Stade Gilbert Brutus.
Both teams have ticked off wins in the first part of the holiday programme, Castleford beating Wakefield Trinity 28-26 on Thursday when Catalans were prospering 39-6 at London Broncos.
Tigers, up to third, defeated the French side 20-4 on the opening night of this season and hope to now complete a double.
Winger James Clare said: “I just hope it’s not too warm.
“It’s always nice to get out there for a little bit of sun but, hopefully, it’s not too hot.
“Then it can be a little bit of a slower game and, hopefully, our middles can match theirs as that’s the important thing when you’re facing Catalans.
“They obviously have a huge forward pack that always play well at home, combined with some extremely experienced halves who know how to control these kind of games.
“In the middle is where it will be won and lost; after a short turnaround, the importance of us managing their middle men and go-forward will be key.”
Powell has freshened up his squad with hooker Paul McShane returning from a three-game ban and back-row Chris Clarkson fit again after a hamstring issue.
They replace fellow forwards Oli Holmes and Jesse Sene-Lefao who were both injured in the first half of that victory against Wakefield when Castleford raced into a 22-0 lead.
Trinity came back but Clare said: “We spoke at half-time and we know Wakefield are a really good team.
“We knew the fact they have some talented individuals and, for me, they are a top-four team.
“We knew they’d come out of the blocks especially in a derby game and they really took it to us in that second half.
“We struggled to handle them – massively at times – but credit to the Tigers spirit that we just managed to hang on and get a narrow win.”
Clare praised the impact of their forwards, who face another tough test this evening.
“We lost Ogi (Holmes) early on and Jesse dislocated his shoulder so that made things really difficult in terms of your game-plan of when you’re bringing your subs on,” he said.
“Jacques O’Neill is just a young lad, too, who is finding his way – he only made his debut a couple of weeks ago – so it just makes it really difficult. But credit to the lads who put the minutes in in the middle. Liam Watts was just absolutely outstanding.”
Clare, 28, scored took his tally for the season to four tries with a brace against Wakefield.
“It’s always nice to get over,” he said. “It’s disappointing to let a couple in as well but that’s part of rugby – it’s a competition against your opposite winger.”