With Zak Hardaker apparently heading across the Pennines to Wigan, Castleford look set to lose their star man for good. Head coach Daryl Powell stated in pre-season that Ben Roberts would be the most suitable candidate to take the No.1 shirt, but he is yet to show the goods at the back, despite improving in the round two game against Widnes. And, with the former Featherstone boss admitting that Greg Eden would have filled in at full-back against the Vikings if the 2017 top scorer had not been ruled out through injury, the Tigers look far from settled at the back. But, should Powell stick or twist?

Improvements have been made

Ben Roberts was awful against St Helens in the first match of the season - an observation which even the staunchest Castleford supporter cannot deny.

Though his positional awareness and timing were so far away from what Powell and the Tigers' fans expected, the way he picked himself up to once more fill the full-back spot against Widnes took some courage, especially as Powell had earmarked Eden to take up the full-back role before the latter was sidelined. Still, Roberts seemed far from comfortable; out of position for Widnes' first try from a Tom Gilmore kick, the Samoan international lacks the authoritative voice, natural ability and peak physical fitness - which Hardaker has in abundance - to fit in seamlessly at No.1.

But, one can hardly blame Roberts for being asked to play in a position which he has rarely played throughout his career. And, despite Powell's belief that Roberts could make the No.1 spot his own in 2018, the Castleford side could not have had more than six weeks' preparation to ensure this belief became a reality in the new season.

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For someone that played in the World Cup until mid-November and then recuperated with his family around Christmas time, slotting in perfectly at full-back was always going to be a very difficult - if not impossible - task at the beginning of the season.

From the Saints game to the Widnes game, Roberts improved greatly. And, after having a weekend off due to the World Club Challenge and exhibition matches, the Tigers have had time to settle their nerves and analyse what has gone wrong so far and how the coaching staff and team can fix it. Roberts, inevitably, will have been challenged by Powell to pick his game up and, if the past few years have shown us anything, it is that Roberts, on his day, is a brilliant player and one whom can find strength through adversity.

Other options

Powell does not have a wealth of full-back talent to choose from, but, another option is Greg Eden. A real livewire, Eden is a brilliant attacking player, but, his defensive ability - particularly under the high ball - leaves something to be desired.

Eden is also, hands down, a much better winger than he is full-back, a fact which was quite obvious in 2017 and especially in the bitterly disappointing Grand Final. Removing one of the Tigers' best strike players would nullify Eden's qualities - much like when Powell experimented with Denny Solomona at full-back - and, as a result, Castleford could lose a key component of their potent left-side attack.

James Clare and Jy Hitchcox have also been touted as possible full-back replacements by Tigers fans, but Powell sees the duo primarily as wingers. Clare, for instance, took the No.1 shirt for the Tigers' Boxing Day clash against Featherstone, but failed to impress, lacking the necessary confidence at the back. Hitchcox, meanwhile, has a devastating turn of pace and is sound defensively, but his small stature would make him an obvious target. And, Hitchcox is, again, an impressive winger.

Is youth the answer?

Waiting in the wings patiently is perhaps the best candidate that could be the missing piece of the jigsaw. Calum Turner is an England Academy full-back; he knows the position inside out and, having been a part of the Tigers' first-team setup, he knows what is expected of him in the Castleford side. Though he is still in teenage years, the motto - which all Rugby League sides should adopt - if you are good enough you are old enough, could encourage Powell to test Turner out if Roberts cannot find his feet.

Jack Walker at Leeds - a Grand Final winner at just 18 - is a prime example of a young player being given a chance and thriving as a result of the faith invested in him. Now, Turner may not have the same impact, but at least he is a natural full-back playing in his natural position. And, with this youngster at the back, Roberts could return to his best position - stand-off. It is no surprise that the Tigers have lacked Roberts' spark at No.6 nearly as much as they have missed Hardaker's at No.1.

Powell will likely continue with the same full-back setup as in the opening rounds, but, if things do not improve drastically, surely giving a young, enthusiastic, and extremely talented Turner a chance to impress is the way to go?