HE SIGNED as a prop but Castleford Tigers head coach Daryl Powell says Liam Watts has been “ripping” his side apart as a stand-off in training.
Watts, of course, has had to make do with life solely on the practice pitch ever since the club bought him from Hull FC just under three weeks ago.
He still had a three-game ban to serve but that is now complete meaning the juggernaut front-row finally takes to the real action against Warrington Wolves this afternoon. Granted, for all his handling quality, nobody expects him to fulfil the No6 role but hooker Paul McShane admits everybody is keen to see the talented 27-year-old finally pull on the colours of his hometown club.
“It’ll be a nice boost to have him in the team,” he said, as Tigers look to complete a perfect Easter after last Thursday’s 11-6 win at Wakefield.
“He is one of the best forwards in the league and for us to sign someone like that at this stage is going to lift the side.
“He is training well at the minute and he has come in and really knuckled down. He has had a real dig in training and fits in with all the lads.
“I think he is definitely going to lift us.”
In fairness, Castleford don’t really need much lifting; that success in the rain and mud at Wakefield was a fifth successive win.
Still, Watts and fellow forward Nathan Massey, who missed that game with sore ribs, will at least offer fresh legs against a Warrington side that has started to find their own feet.
McShane, 28, said: “They’ve got quality all over the field and they’ve put some really good defensive displays in this year.
“I think they are going to be a hard team to break down, but hopefully we can come out on top. Everyone’s improving.
“Look at Wakey, they are up in the top half of the table, Salford were up there last year and it’s more competitive this season, I think.
“More teams are evenly-balanced.”
Strangely, Castleford – the most prolific side in the competition by far last term – have not scored a try in the second half of their last three games.
But McShane, set for a real battle with England rival and former Tigers No9 Daryl Clark this afternoon, reckons grinding out wins now will stand them in good stead later in the year.
On the Wakefield win, he added: “It was a hard game and I thought our defensive performance was a lot better than the previous week’s (25-24) win against Leeds. We spoke about it all week. Conditions probably helped, but when we were under the pump – like we were in the second half – I thought we were great.
“We probably aren’t at our best, but we are gradually building and hopefully soon we will be able to put that full 80 together.”
Watts’ inclusion at the expense of unused James Green is the only change in the hosts’ 19-man squad.
Wolves bring in prop Dominic Crosby while former Wakefield centre Ryan Atkins and George King are expected to play after missing out on the Good Friday win over Widnes Vikings.