Castleford Tigers head coach Daryl Powell says he does not care “one iota” if people are questioning his team selection against Hull FC tomorrow night.
With the League Leaders’ Shield long since secured and a home semi-final for a place at Old Trafford looming next Thursday, he has taken the opportunity to rest a number of key players for their final Super 8s contest.
Fifth-placed Wigan Warriors, in particular, may be upset as a Castleford win would enhance their own chances of potentially breaking into the top-four semi-final places at Hull’s expense.
But Powell has left out six regulars including captain Michael Shenton, England full-back Zak Hardaker and Australian prop Grant Millington while Man of Steel favourite Luke Gale (appendix surgery) is already sidelined.
Young Tuoyo Egodo, the former Hemel Stags winger who has been on loan at Oldham and York City Knights, is set for his Super League debut while back-row Conor Fitzsimmons, 19, and prop Will Maher, 20, could make their first Castleford appearances of the season.
However, having won at champions Wigan last Sunday without England scrum-half Gale and Samoa stand-off Benny Roberts, Powell rightly has every confidence in whoever he selects.
We’ve got a lot of weight put on a certain group of players and I need to make sure that next week, everyone is ready. We’re going to finish top by the biggest winning margin in the Super League era, so that’s an awesome achievement.Daryl Powell
“It doesn’t bother me one iota,” he said, when asked about those complaining about his picks.
“It’s about what is important for us. If you look at the game against Wigan on the Sunday, we’ve then got matches Friday and Thursday which is three games in 12 days – that’s tough.
“We’ve got a lot of weight put on a certain group of players and I need to make sure that next week, everyone is ready.
“We’re going to finish top by the biggest winning margin in the Super League era, so that’s an awesome achievement.
“We’re not discounting Friday’s game but we’ve a huge game the week after; I need to make sure we get both performances right.
“We had both halves missing last week but still won the game, and these boys are good players.
“I expect them to compete massively with Hull.”
Pack regulars Adam Milner, Oli Holmes and Nathan Massey are the others omitted but, having seen 18-year-old scrum-half Jake Trueman score a hat-trick on his first Super League start at Wigan, Powell is not concerned.
On Egodo, he said: “There’s a strong chance he’ll play. He’s been good this year and it’s a good opportunity for him to make a mark. We saw last week with Jake that our young players can step in and do a job. I’m looking forward to seeing him do that.”
Holmes has a groin issue but Roberts returns along with former Hull captain Andy Lynch while Gale – who will be given until the day of the semi-final to prove his fitness after last week’s operation – has returned to training with some light swimming.
Elsewhere, Wakefield Trinity have signed Catalans Dragons second-row Justin Horo, 31, on a two-year deal, a further sign of their growing intent for 2018.