Rugby League: Too late for Castleford to play the hero's part: Fixture fears realised

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The Independent Online
FOR Castleford, the opportunity to take on Wigan has come too late to do them any practical good.

One of the many quirks of this season's garbled fixture list is that last year's Challenge Cup finalists meet each other for the first time tomorrow. The Castleford coach, Darryl Van de Velde, was unimpressed by that scheduling from the start, on the not unreasonable grounds that his side had a far better chance of surprising Wigan early in the season rather than now, when they are well into their usual trophy-winning gallop.

The fact that the League's chief executive, Maurice Lindsay, has promised that university brains are to be consulted to get the formula right for next season is of little consolation to Castleford. The delay has meant their game has gone off the boil before their two matches against Wigan. As Van de Velde said: 'The only difference we can make now is to other clubs.'

Castleford, with Brisbane Broncos' assistant coach, Bill Gardner, emerging as a candidate for the coaching role next season, can still have a nuisance value to Wigan. 'They still have Premiership placings to play for,' the Wigan coach, John Monie, said. 'The fact it is Wigan will also make certain they are at their best.'

Monie waited to see if his five Great Britain players came through last night's Test against France before naming his team. There were no obvious worries, but if there are any reactions, he will call again on the young reserves who performed so capably against Leigh on Wednesday and beat Leeds 32-8 to win the Alliance Challenge Cup the following night.

With a match less to play and a far inferior points difference, every game is make or break for Wigan's last championship rivals, St Helens. They looked a different team with Kevin Ward and George Mann back against Warrington last week and should be good enough to beat Leeds.

The most significant match of the season in the Third Division is at Chorley, where Highfield are the visitors. The winners will greatly enhance their chances of avoiding the bottom three and the Rugby League's scandalous summary death sentence.

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