FOCUSED Giants head coach Jon Sharp has begun the countdown to Friday week's key McAlpine pre-season clash against Castleford Tigers (7.30).

The Huddersfield boss is intending to use the rest of the club's five-day trip to the Deverall Army Barracks in Ripon to start to prepare his players for the first big test of their Super League IX credentials.

Sharp admits he has been working his players hard in the two full days they have been in North Yorkshire.

But he believes that's vital if they are to impress against the Tigers.

"Obviously most of the work for Castleford will get under way when we're back in Huddersfield next week," said Sharp.

"But the groundwork is taking place this week.

"The lads are shaping up really well, and they realise that a starting place against the Tigers is at stake.

"Impressing me and the rest of the coaching team right now is the way to help their cause.

"And judging from what I've seen so far, I can't rule anyone out.

"Every member of the squad has been producing quality work, and long may that continue."

Friday week's opponents have been warming up for the McAlpine test by spending a week in Cyprus.

That should have guaranteed the Tigers seven days of quality work in the sun.

But two days were a complete wash-out!

It was a similar story for Wigan, who suffered three blank Cypriot days because of the weather.

That destroyed the theory that embarking on a winter break is the way to ensure top-quality work can be undertaken - something Sharp and his squad have been able to do `up north'.

"Overall, the weather so far has been great. We've had a fair bit of sunshine," he reported.

"There was a light shower yesterday morning when we all jogged to the local pool.

"But apart from that, the conditions have been spot-on.

"Having said that, the facilities at our disposal at the barracks if the weather was bad are also of the highest quality.

"We've definitely hit lucky here."

Sharp's squad were today spending the day at the Army Foundation College in Harrogate, taking part in training exercises designed to test out teamwork.