ENGLAND second-row Oli Holmes is ready to put four months of frustration behind him when he returns for Castleford Tigers tomorrow.
Barring any late mishaps, the popular back-row is set to play his first game of the season against visiting Salford Red Devils.
Holmes, who made his Test debut against France in October and then toured Brisbane and Papua New Guinea with England Knights, underwent shoulder surgery in December.
He had been nursing the problem for some time but the club only realised the extent of the problem after he returned from international duty.
“It feels like it’s actually gone quite quickly the time off as I’ve only missed five games,” said the 26-year-old.
“If I’d have had the operation at the start of the season and missed four months that way it’d have felt a lot longer. But I am looking forward to getting back out there now and playing again.”
Holmes, who has spent his entire career at Wheldon Road, finished strongly last year to gain international recognition.
Although initially selected for Knights, he was drafted into Wayne Bennett’s England side at late notice to face France at Leigh and earned his team-mates’ man-of-the-match in the 44-6 success.
Holmes then impressed in Papua and now hopes to continue where he left off.
The industrious forward said: “That’s the plan. Hopefully I can carry on with the good form I finished with last year, build on that and have a big season for Cas.
“Hopefully we can push on for silverware – we need to do that –and then there’s that Great Britain tour at the end of the year which if I keep playing well I can put myself into contention.
“Ultimately, it’s down to Wayne Bennett’s decision but that’s the end game for me.
“It was a great life experience going to PNG and something I’ve got a taste for now.”
Despite missing Holmes and fellow England second-row Mike McMeeken at the start of this season, as well as long-term casualties such as Luke Gale and Jamie Ellis, Castleford have fared well.
They won their opening four games before coming unstuck at Warrington Wolves last time out.
Holmes’ return will bolster them – England loose forward Adam Milner also hopes to be fit after missing the last two games – and his defensive quality will be needed against a Salford side that stunned Catalans Dragons 46-0 in Perpignan last Saturday.
He conceded: “I watched that but never saw that result coming; there’s not many teams who have done anything like that to Catalans in their own backyard.
“It was a very good performance by Salford. They are playing with a lot of confidence, have some signings that have really fitted well – Jackson Hastings at six and Joey Lussick at dummy-half –so we know their strengths.
“But every game is different. We know Catalans probably weren’t on their game. It was partly down to Salford but we know it’ll be a different game them coming to Cas.”
In the 19-man squad, Holmes replaces Cory Aston who joins Newcastle Thunder on loan.