Wigan and Castleford bid to keep the pressure on leaders St Helens

Rugby League
Daryl Powell
Daryl Powell

Wigan and Castleford will be aiming to keep the pressure on leaders St Helens as they enter the second half of the Betfred Super League regular season.

The Warriors are two points behind their neighbours while the Tigers, who take on Wigan at the DW Stadium on Friday, are a further two points adrift with a game in hand.

Saints host struggling Huddersfield on Friday as they look to bounce back from their surprise defeat at Wakefield, while the other top-four team, Warrington, are involved in Challenge Cup action this weekend.

After making an horrendous start to their defence of the League Leaders' Shield with an 46-6 hammering at St Helens, Castleford have lost just one of their last eight matches and coach Daryl Powell is confident they can kick on in the second half of the campaign.

"We are finding a groove for ourselves," Powell said. "It has taken a bit of time but we have been playing on heavy pitches for a while and now I can see there's some real potential in us in 2018."

St Helens have a chance to complete their first double of the season following their 26-12 win over the Giants at the John Smith's Stadium in February but coach Justin Holbrook says he will not under-estimate the Yorkshiremen.

"Huddersfield have been a little up and down recently but they have a new coach and were unlucky not to beat Leeds a couple of weeks back," Holbrook said.

"They are hard to predict and that makes the game a hard one.

"We have to prepare for them at their best. If we don't play well then we will get beat."

The Giants have yet to win under interim boss Chris Thorman and they must seek to break their duck without talismanic half-back Danny Brough, who starts a three-match ban following his dismissal for dissent in the home defeat by Salford.

"We have to find a way of playing without him and we've done it before because he has missed a couple of games because of his ankle injury," said Thorman, who is set to turn to utility back Sam Wood to plug the gap.

"One person's disappointment is another person's opportunity and I've brought Sam Wood into the squad.

"Whether we go with him I'm not sure, but he has trained well."

Saints have lost England centre Mark Percival to suspension and second rower Zeb Taia to injury and they are still without skipper James Roby to give the Giants hope of springing a shock.

"I'm aware they've suffered a couple injuries and James Roby is not in the squad, which is a positive for us, but we need to turn up ready to play," Thorman added.

"Saints are comfortably the best team in the competition, they've got threats all over the park."

Wakefield coach Chris Chester has the luxury of a full-strength squad to pick from for Friday's other match, a visit to Salford.

Prop David Fifita has returned from a break in Australia but will not be considered for Friday's game and, although winger Tom Johnstone is back in the 19-man squad as he seeks to push for a place on England's trip to Denver in June, he is also not guaranteed a recall.

"The guys who came in deserve to keep their spots," Chester said.

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