YORK City Knights will be up against "some of the best players in the country" when they take on Castleford Tigers this weekend.

That was the view of York head coach James Ford, whose side close out their pre-season friendly matches against the Betfred Super League giants at the LNER Community Stadium on Sunday (3pm).

Castleford were transformed into trophy contenders by boss Darryl Powell, who departed the club for Warrington Wolves during the off-season, following his appointment in 2013.

Under Powell, the Tigers missed out on top five finishes in just two of his eight full seasons, reaching top Challenge Cup finals, one Grand Final and winning a League Leaders' Shield in 2017.

Cas, who now boast one of the division's strongest squads, will be hoping to build on Powell's progress by winning further silverware under former Hull FC chief Lee Radford.

Explaining why York pursed a warm-up match with Castleford, Ford said: “The relationship between the two clubs is strong and always has been strong.

“Lee and I get on pretty well, as do the hierarchies at the respective clubs.

“I think a lot of York fans’ second team is Castleford and vice-versa. There’s a lot of interest in this game and I think it’ll be really well attended and that will be good for both clubs.

“Personally, I’ve taken two additional batches of tickets down to Cas for them to sell. They’re doing a really good job there.

“And we get to compete against a top Super League club and some of the best players in the country are going to be playing at the weekend.

“Jake Trueman is probably the best young half in the country, Niall Evalds will be in contention for a spot in the England squad and Paul McShane is the best hooker in the country.

“Being able to compete against players of that calibre stands us in great stead for Featherstone and beyond that.”

While Ford’s main focus will be on gearing up his side for their Betfred Championship season opener against Featherstone at the end of the month, he also one eye on the bumper crowd expected at the weekend.

For the first time since the LNER Community Stadium opened its doors to supporters, a Super League team will be visiting the Monks Cross ground.

“Castleford are my hometown team and I’ve been speaking to a lot of people in the area about the game,” said Ford.

“There’s a lot of interest in Cas about York. ‘What’s the stadium like?’ And, as you’d expect, ‘What are the pubs like around the ground?’

“There were a few eyebrows raised about paying £6 for a pint,” he laughed.

“I’m proud as punch that the people of Castleford are going to come to our facilities, see what we’re about as a club and I’m really excited for the players to show my hometown people just how good they are.

“I’m a boyhood Castleford supporter but on Sunday we’ll be absolutely desperate to send those Castleford fans home a little upset.”

It is just over a fortnight until York host Featherstone in their first competitive match of the year and, reflecting on the club’s winter preparations, Ford added: “It’s been good how we’ve built through pre-season.

“We’ve done a lot of edge-on-edge in training, then 13-on-13, then we went against the Hurricanes, and now we’re going against Castleford.

“There’s been a good progression there and we’re nicely building towards the season.”