Huddersfield v Castleford: Sam Wood relishing Tigers test
By PA Sport
Last Updated: 03/05/17 11:46am
Huddersfield's Sam Wood is hoping to stand tall against Betfred Super League leaders Castleford on Thursday, live on Sky Sports 3 HD from 7.30pm.
At 6ft 4in, the 19-year-old Wood is not on his own in living up to his club's nickname of Giants but what makes him stand out from the rest is the fact that he is a half-back.
The lanky Wood towered over the Leeds half-backs in Huddersfield's shock win at Headingley last week and is hoping to cast a shadow over former Man of Steel Rangi Chase when Huddersfield take on the Tigers at the John Smith's Stadium.
Wood, who made his Super League debut against Wigan just over 12 months ago, had been filling in at centre for injured captain Leroy Cudjoe for most of this season but Giants coach Rick Stone chose him as the half-back partner for Danny Brough following the sudden departure of Ryan Brierley and the loss of Lee Gaskell to injury.
Although Huddersfield remain on the look-out for a permanent replacement for Brierley, Wood impressed the coach enough to keep his spot for the visit of the in-form Tigers, who have the chance to pull three points clear at the top.
"Sam is a young bloke with a fairly big responsibility and I think he'll get better at that role," said Stone. "He just needs a few more games and a few more sessions to cement his role."
The Dewsbury-born Wood, who played in the halves for Huddersfield's academy team, is an inch taller than team-mate Gaskell and could lay claim to being the tallest half-back in Super League.
"Possibly," he said. "I was a half-back when I was young, then I grew about four feet!
"I've played quite a bit of everywhere. I've been coming in for Leroy and doing a job at right centre, just trying not to let anybody down.
"My personal target for this year was just to get more games than last year, when I played four times in Super League. My aim was to maybe double that this year. I'm ticking games off."
Sam is a young bloke with a fairly big responsibility and I think he'll get better at that role.
Rick Stone on Sam Wood
Wood ticked off a big one as the Giants bounced back from their humiliating Challenge Cup defeat by part-timers Swinton with a victory at Headingley that denied Leeds the chance to go top.
"It was absolutely massive, especially in front of that Headingley crowd," said Wood. "I don't think there's anywhere better to play, to be honest.
"To go and beat Leeds on their own patch was huge and I think we can take a lot of confidence out of that going into this week's game."
Wood will not get the chance to go up against Luke Gale, arguably Super League's top half-back who is away on England duty, but Castleford have a useful replacement in Chase, who is set to make his first start since February.
The Tigers are also without Gale's regular partner Ben Roberts through injury and fellow England call-ups Zak Hardaker and Mike McMeeken but still boast an array of talent.
"It's an absolutely massive test but, if we want to be in that top eight competing for silverware, we need to be playing and beating the top teams," said Wood.
Huddersfield Giants: Danny Brough, Paul Clough, Dale Ferguson, Ryan Hinchcliffe, Sebastine Ikahihifo, Kruise Leeming, Darnell McIntosh, Jake Mamo, Nathan Mason, Alex Mellor, Aaron Murphy, Adam O'Brien, Gene Ormsby, Sam Rapira, Oliver Roberts, Jared Simpson, Daniel Smith, Shannon Wakeman, Sam Wood.
Castleford Tigers: Rangi Chase, Matt Cook, Greg Eden, Alex Foster, Kieran Gill, Tom Holmes, Kevin Larroyer, Andy Lynch, Nathan Massey, Paul McShane, Grant Millington, Greg Minikin, Adam Milner, Joel Monaghan, Junior Moors, Jesse Sene-Lefao, Gadwin Springer, Michael Shenton, Jake Webster.