Some Castleford players take children out of school ahead of Challenge Cup final
Some Castleford players have taken their children out of school to protect themselves against the threat of Covid-19 in the build-up to next Saturday’s Betfred Challenge Cup final.
Almost a dozen Super League fixtures have been called off so far amidst the latest surge in coronavirus cases and virtually every club has had players who have either tested positive or been forced to self-isolate due to close contact.
Castleford coach Daryl Powell says some of his players are taking no chances in the run-up to the clash with St Helens at Wembley.
“There’s been some serious sacrifices made by our players, taking their kids out of school for 10 days before the final and wives working from home,” Powell said.
“The boys are doing everything they can to get us to next week with no disruption.”
Players from Castleford and St Helens will need no reminding that Salford players Dan Sarginson and Jack Ormondroyd were forced to sit out last year’s Cup final after testing positive for Covid a week before.
Powell says his captain Michael Shenton and England hooker Paul McShane are among those to have taken special steps to avoid contracting the virus.
“Michael Shenton has taken his kids out of school and Paul McShane’s wife is working from home, they are two that are making those kind of sacrifices,” Powell said.
“They see it as that important. There will be others. This is obviously a huge part of their lives, playing in a Wembley final, and for the players that get there it’s absolutely massive.”
Shenton will lead his side against Salford in Sunday’s league game at the Jungle but it will be largely a reserve team, with five youngsters set to make their debuts.
Powell is leaving out at least 12 members of his likely Wembley line-up but says his hand has been forced, particularly after having last Tuesday’s game at Huddersfield cancelled by the opponents.
“The risk of putting a team out on Sunday I felt was too much, to be honest,” he said at his preview press conference.
“It’s a Sunday into a Saturday Challenge Cup final, that says it all really.
“We wanted to play on Tuesday and that didn’t happen which then creates a whole host of issues. Take head knocks for example, if anyone gets a head knock, they can’t play on Saturday.
“We wanted to move the game but we couldn’t because of Covid. It’s an impossible task really.
“But what it does give us is an exciting young squad and I can’t wait to see them play and how they handle the experience.”
Powell says none of his players have been ruled out of the final, although stand-off Jake Trueman is among those nursing knocks having missed the last four league games with back trouble.
“There are a couple of players who wouldn’t have been fit anyway so we’re making conscious decisions on players who aren’t fully fit and making sure they’re right for next week,” Powell added.
“So some decisions have been taken out of our hands but clearly there are some decisions I’m making to make sure we have the best possible chance next week.
“Clearly both camps have had some adversity and difficulty, I think Salford have named a five-man squad at the moment.
“It’s crazy times. This is so out of the ordinary that it’s hard to manage. We’ve just got to do our best. The next 10 days are absolutely crucial for our season and we need to get it right.”