Castleford's off-season recruitment has left a lot to be desired; the departing Jake Webster has not been replaced whilst Luke Gale is going to be out for the whole of the 2019 season with injury. Fans have been braying for a signing, though Jon Wells - Castleford's Director of Rugby - has stated that the club does not need to strengthen for the season ahead. However, the Tigers have finally bitten the bullet with Jordan Rankin coming to the Jungle on a loan deal from Huddersfield and Joe Wardle going the opposite way.

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Wardle had previously been linked in a swap deal with Huddersfield's Sebastine Ikahihifo before the Tigers and Giants finally agreed on the Rankin-Wardle swap. Both Rankin and Wardle are 27 and it is a deal that works for all parties involved.

Disappointment

Since Wardle joined Castleford ahead of the 2018 season from NRL side Newcastle Knights, the backrower/centre has disappointed. He played 18 games for the Tigers last season, but spent a lot of the year injured or carrying knocks and was a far cry away from the exciting recruit head coach Daryl Powell felt he had laid his hands on in 2017.

With claims that Wardle was unhappy at the Tigers, the only plausible consequence was to move him on. Wardle spent six seasons at Huddersfield so a return to the Giants was perhaps always on the cards.

NRL experience

Jordan Rankin has played over 40 games in the NRL during his career - with both Gold Coast Titans and Wests Tigers - and can play a number of positions. At his first English club - Hull FC - he operated at both halfback and fullback and played for Huddersfield in the same positions in 2018, though he can also play on the wing.

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With Castleford's halfback dilemma well documented due to the loss of Luke Gale, Rankin may well become Jake Trueman's halfback partner in 2019. However, both Hull FC and Huddersfield fans will be the first to admit that the 27-year-old played his best rugby at fullback, chiming into the attacking line and causing a number of problems for the opposition's defence.

If Powell opts to play Rankin at fullback, this would mean that Peter Mata'utia would likely start at centre, in place of Greg Minikin who would swap to the wing.

This option looks exciting; Mata'utia - though a very good fullback - is in the same mould as centre predecessor Jake Webster. A powerful runner with a great offload, Mata'utia could make that right centre spot his own. Of course, if Rankin plays fullback, one of Jamie Ellis, Ben Roberts and Cory Aston will need to step in alongside Trueman. Though this may weaken the halves, it will definitely strengthen the backline.

Plus, Rankin's attacking game suits how Castleford play. With electrifying pace and an eye for a gap, Rankin is reminiscent of Luke Dorn - a no.1 that lit up Super League for the Tigers.

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Two for the price of one

With the departure of Joe Wardle, the signing of Chris Clarkson appears to make more sense. A backrower, Clarkson fills the role as a backup forward, but on much less money than Wardle. It will be interesting to see where Rankin fits in Powell's plans, but the Tigers have effectively got two players for the price of one. Moreover, Rankin will offer much more excitement than Wardle ever did, and, for what is likely to be, much less money.

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