Castleford coach Daryl Powell believes his captain Michael Shenton is nearing his very best form once again – and has backed him to force his way into the England side for this year’s World Cup.
Shenton suffered an indifferent start to last week’s game against Leeds, before laying a number of high-class assists on for winger Greg Eden as the Tigers cemented their position at the top of Super League.
And after returning from a season-long knee injury last year, Powell is in no doubt Shenton is good enough to play for the national team after his recent form.
“Shenny started off a bit patchy in that game but after that, there was some world-class centre play on show I thought,” he told TotalRL.
“In the last two or three games, he’s really been getting back to his very best form. When you have the knee injury he had, that’s a tough thing to come back from, and he’s right back where we knew he could be which is the elite field in his profession. Some of the skill he’s got would fit on any stage at any level.
“He’s absolutely still good enough (to play for England). He’s been playing against the guy who is the incumbent and he’s been strong against Kallum (Watkins) this year. They had a bit of a dig at each other last week but Shenny did some real special things in that second half.”
Meanwhile, Powell wants his Super League leaders to show their ruthless side against bottom-of-the-table Widnes on Friday night.
In a game the Tigers are expected to comfortably win, Powell’s men will look to consolidate their position at the top of the league with their 12th win in 15 games this season against the Vikings – who are without over a dozen players due to injury.
And Powell admits that with the Tigers returning home, where they remain unbeaten in 2017, it is a great opportunity to show their clinical side and put Widnes to the sword.
He told TotalRL: “We knew Leeds would be coming after us and the motivation for some games, from a coaching perspective, is easier.
“But we’ve learned some harsh lessons this season alone and what we’ve done when we’ve had a lesson, is we’ve heeded it.
“When we’ve been challenged in a similar way we’ve handled it and this is a chance to show we are a ruthless rugby league team. This is a great opportunity for us to get after Widnes and show what we’re about over 80 minutes.”
Powell also admits his side continue to look a different beast at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle: where two of their next three league games will be played.
“We’ve played a lot of the good sides away so they’ve got to come here,” he said. “St Helens are coming here soon and their motivation will be significant.
“There are some real challenges for us but there’s a definite confidence when we’re playing at home. We look difficult to beat here.”
Jake Webster, Junior Moors and Alex Foster all drop out of Powell’s 19-man squad: but he confirmed they are rested, not injured.