Daily Star


Bevan’s relishing kick-off with blast from the past


WIGAN’S Bevan French is ready for Castleford’s cheerless welcome, admitting: “It reminds me why I play!”

The Aussie superstar hopes to begin the champions’ title defence in style when the BBC televise a live Super League game for the first time tonight.

Anyone switching on could see the elusive stand-off bewitching defenders with his silky skills.

But Castleford’s rickety old Wheldon Road ground, where fans are packed on terraces so close to the action, is like a blast from the past.

French said: “I’m not going to lie. It’s a tough place to go and prepare. Those little changing rooms don’t really give you much space to warm up and get ready.

“And there’s always a good laugh after the game hearing what some of the boys have had shouted at them, which I probably can’t repeat!

“It’s all good fun. It’s crazy. But, when I go there, it’s always a good reminder for me of where I come from.

“It’s exactly like the changing rooms where I grew up back home playing.

“I like to bring that enjoyment back out there, rather than thinking it’s a job. It’s playing footy.

“It’s always a good atmosphere there and it’s good to have that reminder sometimes.”

Given that French grew up in Tingha, a country town in New South Wales with a population of just 887, you get a sense of what he means.

Its welcome sign states, ‘Step back in time.’

But Castleford, who narrowly avoided relegation last term, could see their traditiona­l home get a much-needed facelift after earning a crucial planning decision this week.

And they certainly plan to show more spirit and resilience under new boss Craig Lingard.

Although without co-captain Paul McShane after he tweaked a hamstring in training, new signings Luke Hooley, Josh Simm, Nixon Putt and Sam Wood are all set to debut.

Wigan’s recruitmen­t, however, has been different class.

Boss Matty Peet (inset) has brought in England prop Luke Thompson, exLeeds hooker Kruise Leeming and Catalans centre Adam Keighran.

They are title favourites and need to quickly get into their stride ahead of hosting NRL premiers Penrith in next Saturday’s sell-out World Club Challenge.

After finally wrestling the title away from St Helens, Wigan are now the hunted rather than the hunters.

But reigning Man of Steel French said: “We know what it’s going to be like. “Teams will start strong against us and we’ll expect the best from every side we face.

“But, even before we became champions, we’ve experience­d that as Wigan are looked at as one of the top teams.

“A couple of wins against Wigan in a season is always good for sides.

“We know what’s coming. We’re excited.”

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 ?? ?? ■ UP FOR IT: French is expecting a tough season as Wigan aim to keep crown
■ UP FOR IT: French is expecting a tough season as Wigan aim to keep crown
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