St Helens coach Keiron Cunningham has warned that his side will have to be on their guard against a “carefree” Castleford Tigers side on Thursday night.
The Saints are assured of a top-four spot in Super League following results last weekend, with Castleford unable to make the semi-finals themselves ahead of Thursday’s showdown.
And Cunningham told the club’s official website that despite their league position and the fact they have little to play for, the Saints will have to be wary.
“They are playing really well,” he said. “If we hadn’t done what we have done over recent weeks I’m sure they would have gone again and grown another leg. They will come here to play for sure. They are playing a carefree type of rugby and have overcome a lot of injuries to do that. These types of teams are usually the most dangerous you can play against.
“We have started slow in our last two home games but have played against two sides who have come here and wanted to play. Hull brought in six, seven fresh players who had points to prove and took it to us. We didn’t help ourselves but got better as the game went on.
“There were a couple of mental errors in the game but the good thing for me was how we overcame our start. Even taking the Wigan game into account we have been phenomenal defensively over the last nine games and one of the best in the comp. We are growing into that and gaining confidence going into the back end of the year.”
Cunningham also said he’s looking forward to welcoming back duo Luke Walsh and Luke Thompson. The pair were handed suspensions which forced them to miss the recent games against Wigan and Hull FC, but both have been named in his 19-man squad for Thursday’s game.
“We had good combinations with them before they were banned,” he said.
“Theo (Fages) came in perhaps a little too soon for that Wigan game, but he was much better against Hull and looked comfortable. I have some tough decisions to make but you do lean towards that pairing who played well in that seven-week block.”
And Cunningham said that his side are now eyeing up a home draw in the play-off semi-finals – and admitted he’s looking forward to the run-in.
“We still don’t know where we could finish. All we can do is take care of what we can take care of. We had four really tough games to start this phase of the comp and have taken six points from a potential eight. It has put us in a good spot and now we have the so-called lower teams in the Super 8s.
“These games will be humdingers though. Cas pose all types of threat, Widnes rolled Wigan and then you face Wakefield and you don’t know what they can throw at you.
“Of course we could like a home draw in the semi-finals – there is an advantage in that – but our away form has been good too. We will know more after the final round.”