After playing five pre-season games between them this month, Castleford and Leigh meet at the Mend-a-Hose Jungle in what could be the game of the weekend. The Tigers have been heralded as this year’s surprise package, but many also don’t know what to expect from Leigh upon their return to the top flight.

Last time out

Castleford’s pre-season campaign began with a narrow 32-30 defeat to Wakefield before a youthful Tigers side was beaten 38-12 by Batley. But victory against St Helens at the Totally Wicked Stadium saw their 2017 preparations end on a high. Rangi Chase, who returned to the club in 2016, as well as new boy Zak Hardaker, will both be key for Castleford this year and were influential in toppling the Saints.

Meanwhile, Leigh have a 100% record in pre-season; a 50-10 crushing of local rivals Wigan as well as an impressive 36-4 victory over Dewsbury has set the Centurions up well for their return to Super League. But Neil Jukes’ men lost winger James Clare to a devastating ACL injury against the Rams – Clare has since been replaced by the loan signing of Hull FC full-back Curtis Naughton.

Key battle

Friday’s fixture could be determined by the clubs’ respective packs, with both Castleford and Leigh boasting impressive forwards. The home side have veteran Andy Lynch and Aussie Grant Millington as their two starting props, while Junior Moors and Larne Patrick are very suitable replacements.

But Leigh have bolstered significantly in the off-season, and signings such as Glenn Stewart and Atelea Vea will certainly push the Tigers all the way – there could well be tries scored by some of the forwards on show on Friday.

 

Prediction

Leigh will certainly push Castleford close, but the Tigers’ top-flight experience will serve them well. Castleford by ten.

Squads

Castleford: Chase, Cook, Eden, Gale, Hardaker, Lynch, Massey, McMeeken, McShane, Millington, Milner, Minikin, Monaghan, Moors, Roberts, Sene-Lefao, Shenton, Springer, Webster.

Leigh: Brown, Higson, Crooks, Tonga, Dawson, Ridyard, Drinkwater, Hock, Weston, Paterson, Stewart, Hansen, Pelissier, Tickle, Vea, Hampshire, Reynolds, Hood, Green.