Castleford host St Helens on Thursday night just two weeks on from their home defeat to the same opposition in the Challenge Cup and five days on from their impressive dismantling of Leeds Rhinos at Magic Weekend.
Still missing key players including Greg Eden and Luke Gale, Daryl Powell has been able to call on Samoan half-back-cum-full-back Ben Roberts in his preliminary nineteen man squad. Experienced centre Jake Webster, however, is missing from the squad and is replaced by former Leigh Centurions forward James Green in the group. While their performance against St Helens a fortnight ago left the Tigers dumped out of the cup competition, Daryl Powell’s men delivered arguably their most complete performance yet this season against the Rhinos on Saturday, exercising complete control for pretty much the whole eighty minutes. With Webster missing out, Get ’em Onside believes that Roberts will return to the fold at either half back or full back with youngster Jake Trueman occupying the other position. That would enable Michael Shenton to move from the full back berth he has recently occupied to take his place in the centres alongside Joe Wardle.
While their hosts continue to be injury hit, St Helens are one of the few teams to have not had any crippling, long injury lists to account for in 2018. In fact, barring Alex Walmsley’s neck injury sustained in March which is likely to rule him out for the season, they haven’t really had any players missing for extended periods. That has enabled Justin Holbrook to allow his first choice team to develop an understanding which has proved devastating against most opponents thus far. In their ranks is the mercurial Ben Barba who, in the recent cup clash at Wheldon Road, crossed for a hat trick and will be aiming to have a similar impact tomorrow night after a performance at Magic Weekend which, by his standards, was quiet. The strength of their available playing squad is evident by the fact that their nineteen man squad consists of squad number one to nineteen barring Walmsley (eight). However, their number twenty-three, Barba, is a decent player to have in your ranks.
Get ’em Onside believes that this game will be tighter than the recent cup match between the two and the likely good weather should present an enthralling contest between two of the most entertaining teams in the competition. Much of Castleford’s success will be based on how their forwards get to grips with the contest; the likes of Alex Foster and Liam Watts were very impressive against Leeds, controlling their opposite packmen and they will need to do the same against an energetic and aggressive St Helens pack. If they do that, the game will be close. If they don’t, and the Saints pack set a platform for their exciting backs to play from, it could be another poor result for the Tigers.
Castleford Tigers squad: Roberts, Minikin, Shenton, Ellis, Moors, McShane, Millington, Holmes, McMeeken, Milner, Massey, Sene-Lefao, Foster, Cook, Trueman, Green, Hitchcox, Gill, Watts
St Helens squad: Lomax, Makinson, Morgan, Percival, Swift, Fages, Smith, Roby, Amor, Taia, Wilkin, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Douglas, Knowles, Thompson, Peyroux, Richardson, Grace, Barba