Castleford host Catalans Dragons in round one of Super League, so here is everything you need to know..
TEAM FORM GUIDE
The Tigers ended last season in third, losing at eventual champions Wigan in the Super League semi final’s. They head into the 2019 season on the back of two pre-season wins over Championship side Featherstone Rovers and fellow Super League side Leeds Rhinos.
New signings have lacked over the off-season with Daryl Powell bringing in Chris Clarkson on trial from Hull KR and Jordan Rankin from the Huddersfield Giants on a season-long loan. Both of these are key for the Tigers especially Rankin, who will be a much needed replacement for Luke Gale who is out for the season with an achilleas injury.
As current Challenge Cup holders, Catalans head into 2019 looking to adding more silverware to their collection. The signing of Sam Tomkins from the Wigan Warriors indicates that Steve McNamara’s side are looking to make a big statement in 2019 as they look to become the first non British side to reach the Super League grand final.
During pre season the Dragons have faced Championship side Toulouse Olympique as well as a French representative’s side coming out victorious in both games.
Their Super League form in 2018 was mixed starting the season poorly before picking up in the middle of the season when they went to Wembley and defeated the Warrington Wolves to become the first French side to the lift the Challenge Cup.
Head coach Daryl Powell welcomes Ben Roberts back into the 19-man squad. He missed the pre-season friendly against Leeds with a back injury. Greg Eden is also set to return after missing that clash with the Rhinos.
Jordan Rankin is likely to make his full debut for the Tigers after joining on a season-long loan from Huddersfield.
Castleford 19-man squad:
2. James Clare, 21. Mitch Clark, 18. Matt Cook, 5. Greg Eden, 17. Alex Foster, 14. Nathan Massey, 1. Peter Mata’utia, 12. Mike McMeeken, 9. Paul McShane, 10. Grant Millington, 13. Adam Milner, 3. Greg Minikin, 16. Junior Moors, 32. Jordan Rankin, 19. Ben Roberts, 15. Jesse Sene-Lefao, 4. Michael Shenton, 6. Jake Trueman, 8. Liam Watts.
Greg Bird will miss about a month after suffering a broken thumb. New signings Matty Smith, Matt Whitley and Sam Tomkins are all included in the 19.
It will be interesting to see where Tomkins fits into the Catalans side. Will he play full-back or half-back and who will miss out?
Catalans 19-man squad:
1. Tony Gigot, 3. David Mead, 4. Brayden Wiliame, 5. Lewis Tierney, 6. Samisoni Langi, 7. Matty Smith, 8. Remi Casty, 9. Micky Mcilorum, 10. Sam Moa, 11. Kenny Edwards, 12. Benjamin Garcia, 14. Julian Bousquet, 15. Mickael Simon, 16. Benjamin Jullien, 17. Matt Whitley, 18. Alrix Da Costa, 19. Mickael Goudemand, 24. Jason Baitieri, 29. Sam Tomkins.
HEAD TO HEAD
The last time these two sides met Castleford Tigers came out 36-4 victors at the Mend A Hose Jungle with Greg Eden scoring a hat trick alongside Oliver Holmes, Michael Shenton and Jake Trueman.
The Dragons were more successful when the sides previously met in June 2018, ending up with a 44-16 win.
Despite the lack of signing from Castleford, they still have a huge pack. Liam Watts and Grant Millington look set to start at prop but there could be some movement throughout the forwards. Junior Moors, Nathan Massey, Jesse Sene-Lafao and Matt Cook will all have parts to play during the season but will have to play more minutes with the drop to eight interchanges.
Catalans have also always been a powerful presence in the forwards but Greg Bird will be a big miss at 13 for them for the start of the season. Remi Casty will hope to continue his impressive form from last season and new kid on the block Matt Whitley will need to find his feet in the Dragons’ side.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Friday 1st February
Venue: Mend A Hose Jungle
Referee: James Child
WHO WILL WIN?
This one should be a very tight and interesting clash, with both sides making key transfers in the off season its a close one to call but I am going with Castleford picking up a 6 point win.