CASTLEFORD Tigers head coach Ian Millward is excited at the prospect of his first Super League Wakey-Cas derby.
The Tigers make the short journey over to the Rapid Solicitors Stadium for tomorrow’s clash with their old rivals and ‘Basil’ is relishing the chance to experience the atmosphere first hand.
He told the Express: “I love derbies and I can’t wait for this one.
“I can’t wait for the passion of the crowd and the players. I’m really looking forward to it and it should be a great atmosphere.
“It’s a good test for us. In our last two games we’ve steadily improved, but we understand that a team that takes Hull and Warrington to the wire then beats Catalan is going pretty well.
“They were much better than us in the pre-season game and they’ll be as keen as us to get a win.
“I’m expecting a typical derby with plenty of emotion.
“The players are feeling very confident and the win last week has given everyone a lift.”
The West Yorkshire rivals go into their first Super League meeting of the year on the back of a sudden transformation in fortunes. Two weeks ago it was Wakefield on a high after beating Catalan Dragons and Cas low following a seventh straight defeat. But last weekend the Tigers were back on song in a 34-30 win over Hull KR while the Wildcats were soundly beaten 36-0 at London. Both now stand on four points.
However, while the upturn has gone some way to restoring confidence among the Castleford players, the Wakefield result will not have any bearing on the Good Friday derby, according to Millward.
“It was a one-off bad performance by them last week and if anything it makes them more dangerous,” he said.
“They won’t need any extra motivation with it being a derby.
“But we’re concentrating on how we play as a group and doing everything possible to play to the best of our ability.
“All our focus this week has been on Friday’s game. We haven’t said a word about Featherstone or St Helens, all we’ve done all week is prepare for Wakefield.”.
Millward is mindful of the fact the Wakefield game is the first of three testing matches in eight days for his team, with a home game against St Helens on Monday and next Saturday’s cup tie at Featherstone to follow. But he intends to pick his strongest line-up then decide whether to utilise his squad further in the second of the Easter games.
He explained: “It’s a tough ask now to play three games in such a short space of time and the first two on Friday night and Monday afternoon, but we’ve got to get on with it.
“When I was coach at St Helens at Easter we’d play at 12 and by 3.30 we’d be out of the ground doing rehab, 5.30 we‘d be having a meal and 7.30 tucked up in bed. But at 7.30 this week we’ll be playing a game and going to war against Wakefield.
“Our first focus is Friday and our second is to then look at how the squad pulls up mentally and physically. We’ve got to go to Wakefield and do the business, that’s our first port of call, then see what’s in the best interest of the players’ welfare.
“We’re confident that the 17 that played against Hull KR will make the field and then we’ll have to look at all the squad members to see how they pull up.
“Danny Orr hasn’t been too bad this week after the injury he picked up in the warm-up against Hull KR. He will be one who is fine to play Friday, but we’ll have to see if he will be in a position to back up straight away.
“We do have some players going into the game with bumps and bruises and we need to see if they can turn around and play in that short period of time. We’ve got a very tough Challenge Cup game coming up at Featherstone as well and we’re very conscious that we want to get into that next round so we want to make sure that we’ve got our best available squad for that game too.
“There’s a few players who’ve been knocking on the door and I’d like to give them an opportunity and see how they go. We’ve got Jordan Thompson, Adam Milner and John Davies and I could probably rattle off five or six who I’d like to see get a run.”
l Tigers’ England Knights centre Joe Arundel is definitely ruled out of the Easter programme and will be on the sidelines for a lengthy spell after undergoing a shoulder operation last Saturday.