Castleford's perfect start means new men must wait for debuts

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The Independent Online

One of the intriguing features of Castleford's startling early season form has been not who has played a part, but who hasn't.

Cas entertain Catalan Dragons at the Probiz Coliseum this evening, hoping to maintain their 100 per cent record and hold on to top spot in Super League. A major strength for the Tigers has been their ability to field a settled team – but that is not good news for everyone.

Two leading winter signings, the Melbourne centre Willie Isa and the much-travelled front-row veteran Nick Fozzard, have yet to make their competitive first-team debuts. The reliable Steve Snitch has been left out; Richard Owen, although back in action in the Academy after his broken leg, is not being hurried back into Super League. Most remarkable of all, there is no place in the 19 for the former club captain, Ryan Hudson, who has been kept out by the outstanding form of two younger hookers, Adam Milner and Daryl Clark.

Hudson, in any event, now has a minor shoulder complaint that would probably rule him out. Isa, Fozzard and Snitch are in the squad to face the Dragons, but none of them is guaranteed a start.

For the Castleford coach, Terry Matterson, the situation is one of unaccustomed luxury. "I'm still weighing it up," said Matterson of being so spoilt for choice. "I just have to decide whether I want to change a winning team."

Matterson claimed he is extremely wary of the Catalans, who started the season in last year's wooden spoon form, but have since beaten Hull KR and performed creditably in a narrow defeat by St Helens to show that there is plenty of potential for improvement under their new coach, Trent Robinson.

All eyes will be on Craven Park tomorrow for the debut of Willie Mason, one of the world's most charismatic players, for Hull KR against Crusaders. Rovers are confident of a five-figure crowd to see Mason, but as he has not played for six months it would be wise not to expect too much, too soon.

There will be less ballyhoo surrounding a debut for the other Hull club. Cameron Phelps will make his first appearance for the black-and-whites against his former club Wigan. That will let Richard Whiting move from full-back to his natural position of centre, but there is still no place for the injured Sean Long.