CASTLEFORD TIGERS’ Jordan Rankin refuses to believe it is a “good time” to play Warrington Wolves but remains confident his side can progress in the Super League play-offs.
The West Yorkshire club head over to Halliwell Jones Stadium tomorrow for the elimination tie knowing their season will be over if they cannot defeat the Challenge Cup holders.
However, Warrington – in second place chasing leaders St Helens for most of the campaign – are currently in dire form having won just one of their last eight league games.
In amongst that, they beat Hull FC in the Challenge Cup semi-final and defeated Saints at Wembley, but have tumbled down to fourth and their hopes of a first league title in 64 years have receded.
Wolves were particularly poor losing 26-4 at lowly Leeds Rhinos last Friday and Castleford, who claimed the last play-off spot of fifth, will fancy their chances of adding to their woe.
Still, asked if it is a good time to face them, Tigers full-back Rankin insisted: “Not really.
“They have showed a bit of dip in form but when it came to the count they were there at Wembley and got the job done against a good St Helens team.
“They know how to play finals footy; they are pretty experienced at that side of the competition.
“They have obviously got the advantage having the home draw but that is part and parcel of rugby league and we know going there is going to be a tough ask.We are ready for a battle. Hopefully we come away with a win.”
Castleford have been forced into changes with second-row Jesse Sene-Lefao starting a two-game ban and loose forward Nathan Massey pulling out with a shoulder problem.
England international Adam Milner (ill) returns after missing the 26-8 loss at Wigan and Will Maher is also likely to come in.
Warrington make a couple of changes, too, with Harvey Livett and Lama Tasi replacing Sitaleki Akauola and Matty Smith.
Australian Rankin, 27, added: “Wigan taught us a bit of a lesson in finals footy last Thursday.
“They kicked well. they defended well and taught us how to play at this stage of the year. It is something we are going to have to be better at on Thursday night to get us the result we need.”
The former Hull FC utility-back, who is on a season-long loan from Huddersfield Giants, has switched to full-back of late and highlighted opposite number Stefan Ratchford as one to watch.
“I love the way Stef has played for a number of years,” said Rankin, about the England star.
“He is a dangerous ball runner, he has got a good pass on him and he is as safe as houses under a high ball. He organises the defensive line really well and he is a key member of their team. We are going to have to nullify him.”
Elsewhere, York City Knights’ Jame Ford and Sheffield Eagles’ Mark Aston are in the running for the Championship Player of the Year with Toronto Wolfpack’s Brian McDermott.
Toronto hooker Andy Ackers, full-back Gareth O’Brien and the former St Helens and Great Britain loose forward Jon Wilkin have been shortlisted for the competion’s player of the year.