Castleford vs Wigan: Super League head-to-heads
Watch coverage of Castleford vs Wigan on Friday, live on Sky Sports Arena from 7pm
By Tom Mordey
Last Updated: 05/04/19 7:24pm
It's a big game on Friday night in Super League, with Castleford aiming for a return to form after two defeats, while Wigan have won back-to-back games to kick start their season.
But who will decide this one? Here's three head-to-heads that might swing the match...
Peter Mata'utia vs Zak Hardaker
Peter Mata'utia has been in excellent form for the Tigers. But will he be playing at full-back against Wigan? Daryl Powell switched him into the halves, with Calum Turner going to the full-back spot in the defeat against Leeds - and it made a difference.
Mata'utia provided two try assists for the Tigers, which put him up to seven for the season. Only six players have more in Super League, although that includes his teammate Paul McShane. And with McShane looking at a lengthy ban until Easter Monday, and Jordan Rankin a fitness doubt, Mata'utia may have to move into the halves against Wigan.
He's carried well from full-back, nearly 1,000 metres this season from his 132 runs. No teammate has more than his 32 tackle busts either. A versatile player, Mata'utia is certainly proving his worth for Daryl Powell.
It's a big night for Zak Hardaker. He comes up against Castleford for the first time since his sacking last season. Will the full-back get a hot reception from the home faithful? Hardaker will know what to expect, having faced exactly the same in Tigers colours when facing Leeds - and it seemed to bring out the best in him.
He opened his try account for the Warriors last weekend, scoring in the rout over Catalans while outshining returning full-back and former local hero Sam Tomkins. Hardaker is a different player to Tomkins, offering more go-forward with ball in hand.
No one has more metres in a Wigan shirt than his 989m, and that comes at an average of 8.04m a drive from his 123 carries. There's also three try assists, with Hardaker proving an important cog in Adrian Lam's side.
Jake Trueman vs George Williams
Jake Trueman's half-back partners are dropping all around him. He lost Luke Gale in pre-season, Jordan Rankin is likely to be missing with that hamstring injury, and Jamie Ellis is an injury absentee, while Ben Roberts was released. Stand in scrum Paul McShane is now suspended. That heaps the pressure onto the shoulders of 20-year-old Trueman.
Fortunately, Super League's Young Player of the Year is more than capable of delivering. His talent has been rewarded with a call-up to England's Performance Squad. Trueman only has two tries and three assists to his name this campaign, but he's crucial for the Tigers when it comes to putting boot to ball.
No one in Super League has made more attacking kicks than his 56. He's also kicked 77 times in general play. Trueman is having to steer his side around the park, and is more than developing into the role. He's got some future ahead.
There's been improvement in George Williams in recent weeks. His form was non-existent with NRL rumours swirling around, with Williams seemingly heading for Canberra. But Wigan's last two wins have coincided with better performances from the half-back.
First of all, he scored a hat-trick in the victory over Salford, including an excellent break out effort, and he then bagged again in the demolition of Catalans. That makes Williams the club's top scorer with five, having also scored against Leeds earlier in the campaign.
No Wigan player has more assists either than his five. Two came against Catalans. Those performances have fired him up the rankings for the Man of Steel award, now into joint-sixth place, five points behind James Roby. Wigan will need him to continue his recent form if they're to continue climbing the table.
Liam Watts vs Joe Bullock
Liam Watts did not deserve to be on the losing side against Leeds. He made a match high 210 metres - 47 metres more than any other player in the match. It was also the highest figure in a Super League game in the latest round of fixtures. Those stats shouldn't come as a surprise given Watts' start to the campaign.
He was another one rewarded with an England Performance Squad call-up. The prop forward has carried for over 1,000 metres this year - the most of any Castleford player, and the ninth best in the competition. That's come at an average of 7.85m a drive.
Watts is also a master of getting the ball out of the tackle. Only Trent Merrin has more than his 19 offloads in Super League. And he's got three tries, including one against the Rhinos. Will he continue his outstanding form on Friday night?
It's been a whirlwind start for Joe Bullock at Wigan. He's played every game since his off-season move from Barrow, impressing coach Adrian Lam, and being rewarded for his form with an England Knights call-up. Three of his appearances have been starts as well, including playing from the off in the win over Catalans last weekend.
Bullock's 816 metres is more than any other Wigan prop. And he's averaging 7.35m per drive. He's also carried 111 times for the Warriors, while making nearly 200 tackles for the campaign too. There's 16 tackle busts and one try as well.
Bullock has a good turn of pace to go with his strong carrying, standing out in the season so far. Will he able to continue that form throughout 2019?