Niall Evalds fighting fit to try and help Castleford Tigers reach Wembley Challenge Cup Final

FULL-BACK Niall Evalds has made it into Castleford Tigers’ 17-man Challenge Cup semi-final squad to face Warrington Wolves.

BACK IN THE GAME: Castleford's Niall Evalds, seen being tackled by Salford's Lee Mossop and Pauli Pauli, has been passed to face Warrington. Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com

A calf injury kept Evalds out of Tigers’ past two games, but he has been included by coach Daryl Powell for tomorrow’s tie at Leigh.

Evalds was a Challenge Cup runner-up with Salford Red Devils last year and his inclusion in Saturday’s 17 is a huge boost for a team who are going into the encounter on the back of three successive league defeats, including a record 60-6 home loss to Leeds Rhinos a week ago.

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England squad member Evalds joined Tigers from Salford in the off season and recently agreed a two-year extension to his contract, which was initially for 2021 only.

RETURN TICKET PLEASE: Niall Evalds in action for Salford against Leeds's Adam Cuthbertson in last year's Challenge Cup FInal. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com

Despite playing in two finals for Salford, the 27-year-old said games like tomorrow are “what I came here for.

“It’s what you dream of as a kid, playing in semi-finals and finals.

“These chances don’t come around very often, so we are all excited and hoping for a big performance on Saturday.”

Evalds can see similarities between Tigers and last year’s Salford side who beat hot favourites Warrington at the semi-final stage before losing by a point to Leeds at Wembley.

OUT WITH A BANG: Castleford Tigers' herad coach, Daryl Powell. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com

He was injured and missed the last-four tie, before returning for the Wembley showpiece.

“I think it’s a similar, hard-working team,” said Evalds. “But it is just about nailing a performance on game day. The thing about the Challenge Cup is form goes out the window. It is just about who handles that pressure and works hardest on the day.

“It’s who executes the game-plan and does all the things that add up to you getting the win.

“We know we are facing a good Warrington side who have had a good run of form recently.

“They’ve had some good wins, including last week, and we are coming off a bad loss.

“The form is polar opposites, but all that counts for nothing and it’s just who wants it more for 80 minutes.”

Evalds has played in two of the European game’s last three major finals, having also featured for Salford in the 2019 Super League decider.

“Back-to-back Wembley appearances would be nice,” he admitted.

“But we have talked about doing it for this group of boys and for Powelly.

“It is obviously his last year here and we have a lot of motivation to get to Wembley.

“We have just got to nail that performance, but we are all ready to go.”

This year’s final, on July 17, will be the authentic Wembley experience after the 2020 decider was played behind closed doors because of the pandemic.

Evalds described that as “weird” and admitted he would love to play at a full national stadium, though Tigers have yet to win since spectators were allowed back into games last month.

“We are excited, I think everyone in rugby league and sport in general is glad fans are gradually coming back in,” he stated.

“It just makes the atmosphere so much better.

“We are glad to see them back and we are just hoping to reward them with a good performance on Saturday and hopefully a Wembley appearance.”

Australian forward Jason Clark loses his ever-present record for Warrington in tomorrow’s encounter.

The former South Sydney back-row limped off in the early stages of the 62-18 Super League win over Salford and sat out the rest of the game with an ice pack strapped to his calf.

Head coach Steve Price said that Clark will be sidelined for around a month.

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