Huddersfield Giants’ Sam Wood is hoping to stand tall against Betfred Super League leaders Castleford on Thursday.
At 6ft 4in, the 19-year-old Wood is not on his own in living up to his club’s nickname, but what makes him stand out from the rest is the fact he’s a half-back.
The lanky Wood towered over the Leeds halves in Huddersfield’s shock win at Headingley last week and is hoping to cast a shadow over former Man of Steel Rangi Chase when Huddersfield take on the Tigers at the John Smith’s Stadium.
Wood, who made his Super League debut against Wigan just over 12 months ago, had been filling in at centre for injured captain Leroy Cudjoe for most of this season, but Giants head coach Rick Stone chose him as the half-back partner for Danny Brough following the sudden departure of Ryan Brierley and the loss of Lee Gaskell to injury.
And although Huddersfield remain on the look-out for a permanent replacement for Brierley, young Wood impressed the coach enough to keep his spot for the visit of the in-form Tigers, who have the chance to pull three points clear at the top.
“Sam is a young bloke with a fairly big responsibility and I think he’ll get better at that role,” Stone said.
“He just needs a few more games and a few more sessions to cement his role.”
The Dewsbury-born Wood, who played in the halves for the Giants’ academy team, is an inch taller than teammate Gaskell and could lay claim to being the tallest half-back in Super League.
“Possibly,” he said. “I was a half-back when I was young, then I grew about four feet!
“I’ve played quite a bit of everywhere. I’ve been coming in for Leroy and doing a job at right centre, just trying not to let anybody down.
“My personal target for this year was just to get more games than last year, when I played four times in Super League. My aim was to may be double that this year – I’m ticking the games off.”
Meanwhile, Castleford coach Daryl Powell admits the depth of his squad will be tested when the Betfred Super League leaders arrive in Huddersfield to take on the Giants tomorrow tonight without their England contingent.
Full-back Zak Hardaker, scrum-half Luke Gale and second-rower Mike McMeeken are all in Sydney preparing for Saturday’s Test match against Samoa, while stand-off Ben Roberts is ruled out with a groin strain sustained in Saturday’s 54-4 win over Wigan.
Powell has responded by recalling Tom Holmes, Kevin Larroyer and Kieran Gill from their loan spells at Batley, Bradford and Oldham respectively and is also set to give a debut to former Leeds and London Broncos back-row forward Alex Foster.
Powell said: “It’s an exciting challenge that we are missing some of our better players – it will be an interesting one.
“It’s a great opportunity for some of the players who haven’t played as much this year or who are coming in to the squad to play for the first time, to do well and it challenges our squad depth to see where we are at.”
Warrington coach Tony Smith has defended the call-up of stand-off Kevin Brown for England’s mid-season Test match against Samoa.
The former Huddersfield and Widnes captain was a last-minute addition to England coach Wayne Bennett’s squad for the game in Sydney on Saturday after Wigan stand-off George Williams injured a knee in his side’s Super League defeat at Castleford on Saturday.
The 32-year-old Brown, who was recalled by Bennett from a six-year absence for last year’s autumn internationals, has struggled to find his form for the Wolves following his sudden close-season move from Widnes.
He missed the start of the season with a hamstring injury but made an impressive debut in Warrington’s World Club Series win over Bennett’s Brisbane Broncos before recently being sidelined by a couple of head knocks.
“It’s not just based on his form,” Smith said. “He hasn’t forced his way in because he’s ripping it up - he knows that - it’s because he’s got experience there and can do a job for his country.
“It’s been difficult for him. He’s been hampered with a couple of injuries and so it’s been hard for him to get any continuity in our team but he’s a class player and a quality player. Participating in this Test might kick him right into form and give him some confidence.”