CASTLEFORD TIGERS v WARRINGTON WOLVES
Sunday 28 March, 2.45pm, Emerald Headingley
Sky Sports Mix and Arena
The first round closes with the battle of last season’s under-achievers, who are also the two clubs whose coaches are going into their last year at the helm.
Daryl Powell’s Castleford never got going after lockdown, finishing eighth, while Steve Price’s Warrington were third but exited the play-offs meekly, losing 27-14 at home to Hull.
While the Tigers want to get back into the play-off picture, the Wolves are desperate to make a first Grand Final since 2018 and seal a first title triumph since 1955.
They hope Australian ace Greg Inglis, now 34, can reignite a previously stellar career.
Price has made Jack Hughes the sole captain, and after sharing the job with Chris Hill, the 29-year-old says he is ready for the challenges ahead.
“Over the last few years, I have had Chris by my side, which has really helped. Now I will have a bit more freedom in expressing my opinion,” explained Hughes.
Castleford, who suffered two narrow defeats by Warrington last season, are likely to be without new signing Suaia Matagi.
The former Huddersfield prop has a calf strain.
Powell, who has a new fullback in highly-rated ex-Salford man Niall Evalds, is also keeping tabs on centre or backrower Alex Foster (bicep injury), while a ruptured Achilles tendon has ruled out winger Sosaia Feki for the season.
“Losing Sosaia was a blow but the players have been fantastic,” said Powell.
“We’ve focused in pre-season on some key areas and I think we’re in a good place.
“I’m confident all the work we’ve done will set us up for what will be an awesome season. We’re ready to play.”
2021 Super League Squads
Castleford: 1 Niall Evalds, 2 Derrell Olpherts, 3 Peter Mata’utia, 4 Michael Shenton, 5 Sosaia Feki, 6 Jake Trueman, 7 Danny Richardson, 8 Liam Watts, 9 Paul McShane, 10 Grant Millington, 11 Oliver Holmes, 12 Cheyse Blair, 13 Adam Milner, 14 Nathan Massey, 15 George Griffin, 16 Gareth O’Brien, 17 Alex Foster, 18 Jacques O’Neill, 19 Tyla Hepi, 20 James Clare, 21 Jesse Sene-Lefao, 22 Daniel Smith, 23 Greg Eden, 24 Suaia Matagi, 25 Jordan Turner, 26 Lewis Bienek, 27 Lewis Peachey, 28 Brad Martin, 29 Sam Hall, 30 Brad Graham, 31 Cain Robb
Warrington: 1 Stefan Ratchford, 2 Tom Lineham, 3 Greg Inglis, 4 Toby King, 5 Josh Charnley, 6 Blake Austin, 7 Gareth Widdop, 8 Chris Hill, 9 Daryl Clark, 10 Mike Cooper, 11 Ben Currie, 12 Jack Hughes, 13 Joe Philbin, 14 Jason Clark, 15 Matt Davis, 16 Danny Walker, 17 Matty Ashton, 18 Jake Mamo, 19 Robbie Mulhern, 20 Sitaleki Akauola, 21 Rob Butler, 22 Ellis Robson, 23 Josh Thewlis, 24 Riley Dean, 25 Eribe Doro, 26 Ellis Longstaff, 27 Connor Wrench, 28 Nathan Roebuck, 29 Jacob Gannon
Key to victory: The Wolves’ forward pack looks as good as any in Super League, while their backs also have some outstanding talent. But the Tigers are determined and the Wolves will need their big names to fire if they are to secure a Round 1 victory.