Daryl Powell and Zak Hardaker go way back; Powell brought Hardaker through at Featherstone and since then the pair have enjoyed a close relationship.
“He’s always been a really good natural rugby league player; he’s obviously playing outstandingly well at fullback at Wigan and he’s going to take some dealing with,” Powell said.
“He’s always been the same, but he’s grown physically since those days. Zak played on the wing initially at Featherstone, but he’s going to be a challenge for us the way he’s going at the minute.”
Despite Hardaker’s obvious talent, Powell was keen to stress that he isn’t the only fullback that could be in contention for England at the end of the year, including Castleford’s own number one.
“We will treat him like every other player; everyone’s talking about the England fullback dilemma, but Sam Tomkins and Jake Connor are there too as well as Niall Evalds.
“It’s a time for Niall to be on top of his game and show what he’s about – we’ve got a guy that’s going outstandingly well at the moment.
“I think he’s started great for us and he’s delivered some outstanding passes in great positions.
“He’s creating and scoring tries so I think it will come down to these big games who has the ability to play for England at the end of the year.
“Niall came here as a quality player and I think he’s improved even more since he’s been here and I just want him to see play well against the best team in the competition.”
Of course, Hardaker and Powell were together in the former’s time at Castleford, but the current Tigers boss says the pair haven’t spoke for a while.
“I haven’t spoke to Zak since that time and obviously he’s over in Wigan at the moment so I haven’t seen him too much.
“I’ll say hello to him on Thursday night, but I won’t wish him too well for the game.”