Huddersfield Giants head coach Rick Stone has made four changes to his 19-man squad for Friday night’s home Super 8s clash with Castleford Tigers.
Club captain Leroy Cudjoe, Sam Rapira, Dale Ferguson and Oliver Roberts return to the squad after being absent for the 46-18 defeat of Hull FC in the last round of matches.
Centre Cudjoe is back after an ankle problem, former New Zealand international prop Rapira has recovered for a rib problem , while second rowers Roberts (leg) and Ferguson (shoulder) are also fit again after last weekend’s break for the Challenge Cup final.
The quartet replace Nathan Mason, Daniel Smith, Gene Ormsby and Tyler Dickinson.
Stone is not expecting the Tigers to ease off during the run-in despite having already secured a home semi-final in the Super 8s.
“They’ve been the stand-out team in the competition, the table reflects that,” Stone said.
“They’re 10 points ahead of the next team so they’re probably 15-20 per cent better than any other side in the competition at the moment.
“Now they’ve won the League Leaders Shield, they want to keep building, keep some momentum going towards the semi-finals, which is really important at this time of the year. I expect after a week off that they want to get straight back on the horse.”
However, Stone feels his side can give the table-toppers a real test at the John Smith’s Stadium – especially as the Giants ran the Tigers close at home in the regular season, going down 21-16 in a tight contest in May.
“We had a decent run against them when we played against them at home, though they had a few players missing,” said Stone.
“But they have been consistent all year and I feel that we are in a good place at the moment to take them on.
“We have a healthier squad, and we have plenty of belief and confidence as we have gained some consistency in our execution.
“We are also much better defensively and much harder to score points against.”
And Stone retains the same attitude he has at the start of the Super 8s series.
“We just wanted to do our best in every game in the Super 8s and see where that gets us,” explained Stone.
“Aside from the Wigan game, where we got rolled over a bit, we have been pretty good in the two other games so we are probably in the right shape to meet Cas right now.”
Huddersfield Giants squad: Jermaine McGillvary, Leroy Cudjoe, Lee Gaskell, Danny Brough, Sam Rapira, Ryan Hinchcliffe, Shannon Wakeman, Dale Ferguson, Michael Lawrence, Kruise Leeming, Sebastine Ikahihifo, Oliver Roberts, Ukuma Ta’ai, Paul Clough, Darnell McIntosh, Alex Mellor, Adam O’Brien, Jordan Turner, Jordan Rankin.
Castleford: Matt Cook, Greg Eden, Alex Foster, Luke Gale, Zak Hardaker, Jy Hitchcox, Oliver Holmes, Kevin Larroyer, Nathan Massey, Paul McShane, Adam Milner, Greg Minikin, Junior Moors, Larne Patrick, Ben Roberts, Jesse Sene-Lefao, Michael Shenton, Gadwin Springer, Jake Webster.