Around this time of year, pre-season is in full flow with teams getting ready for the new season in harsh, wintry conditions. With the new season kicking off at the end of January in 2019, there are no prizes for guessing what the climate will be when Rugby League returns to the field. However, since 2016, Castleford Tigers have made the trip to Lanzarote for a week of warm-weather training. Head coach Daryl Powell has repeatedly stated that a week in the sun helps the players get in some quality training before the rigours of Super League, but is this the right method to prepare the players for the new season?

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Opening games

This will be the fourth season in which Daryl Powell has taken his chargers to Lanzarote, and it's interesting, looking at Castleford's opening games in 2016, 2017 and 2018, just to see how little the warm-weather camp has helped. In 2016 - the first year in which the Tigers went abroad in pre-season - Castleford drew 16-16 away at Hull KR. No disrespect to Hull KR, but that was a game which the Tigers should have won, even in the abysmal conditions which both sides had to play in.

Castleford played newly-promoted Leigh at home in 2017 in front of the Sky cameras. The Centurions were dispatched with ease with Castleford running out 44-16 winners. But 2017 was a season in which the Tigers could do no wrong - apart from losing the Grand Final. 2018 was a different story, a fixture away at favourites St Helens threw up an incredibly difficult challenge. A 46-6 demolition was, however, a disgrace and it clearly looked as though the players were still on the plane to Lanzarote despite returning from the Iberian peninsula two weeks earlier.

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Wrong preparation

Club La Santa - where the Tigers go - is a tremendous facility with the necessary space for training routines and game plans to be worked on. That being said, as disciplined as Rugby League players are, no one can deny that the bright sun and superb weather would make it feel like a holiday. Therefore, when the reality of the opening game in icy and muddy conditions hits, the Tigers have struggled, appearing lethargic and unfit.

The trip to Lanzarote is also wrong in another type of way; it is a break that seems more plausible at the end of a season rather than before the beginning of a new one. Players have been seen boozing and the rumour of a fight breaking out was all the club needed going into 2019. The club has since taken to social media in an attempt to dispel fears, taking a photograph of the squad to show the togetherness of the players. But, not going to Lanzarote in the first place would have ensured such boozy antics would not have happened.

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Take the squad to Lanzarote, yes, but at the end of the season after a gruelling year, not before the start of a new one. It sets the wrong kind of impression entirely. Plus, such training would not be necessary for the slightest if the Tigers are in with a shout of silverware at the end of the year - when has a Grand Final in early October ever produced a tropical setting? Pre-season is supposed to be difficult, not a holiday which, unfortunately, this trip seems to be.

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