Wembley will play host to the Challenge Cup final once more as the Wigan Warriors look to see off the challenge of Hull FC to secure their second win in three years. The Warriors (1/3) are resounding favourites to lift the trophy. The Airlie Birds (5/2) are not expected to leave London victorious (Bet365).
A repeat of 1985’s classic final will be what most Warriors’ fans will be hoping for. Though, coach Shaun Wane will no doubt be hoping his side have the game under wraps much earlier in the day. Hull will be looking to end an infamous run which has seen them fail to lift the trophy in London; their previous two wins since 1929- the first Wembley final- have come in a replay (1982) and during the redevelopment phase when the finals were played in Cardiff (2005).
Despite Hull’s lack of backing, their route to the final has been impressive. They defeated holders Warrington with a dynamic performance at the John Smith’s stadium in the semi-final, and their trip to the South of France- however turgid as a spectacle- yielded an impressive result to continue Peter Gentle’s side’s march to Wembley. They also defeated Wakefield to start their charge to the final.
Comparatively, the Warriors have had a relatively easy canter to the final. London Broncos, Widnes Vikings, Hull KR and Leigh Centurions drawing Wigan during the period of the season where the Warriors appeared to be at their most dominant and fluid.
Coming into the final, Hull have been at their inconsistent best. Winning a Hull derby, but also losing to Bradford, Wakefield and only narrowly defeating Salford City Reds along the way. If they are to take anything from Saturday’s game they will need to find the form which saw them frustrate and control the game against the Warrington Wolves in the semi-final.
The much lauded Wigan side have hit something of a slump in recent weeks. The Warriors have lost 5 of the last 7, and lost their air of infallibility with Sam Tomkins in the side when they lost to the Dragons in Perpignan last weekend. Though often spoken about in comparison to their counterparts from the late 1980s, this generation of Wigan players has a long way to go to match those achievements, and a victory on Saturday will give them their first trophy in two seasons.
Though last season’s league leader’s shield will have been some consolation, the need to win on Saturday certainly heaps the pressure on Wigan to achieve their potential. Hull go into the game in confidence and belief, but with less expectation and, as a result, pressure.
Hull FC have retained youngster Jamie Shaul in the squad with Shannon McDonnell missing out. Peter Gentle also recalls Mark O’Meley, Richard Horne and Ben Crooks to a squad missing in-form winger Tom Lineham.
Shaun Wane is able to name centre Darrell Goulding and captain Sean O’Loughlin after the pair missed last Saturday’s trip to Perpignan.
The View From The Bench:
Wigan Warriors’ coach Shaun Wane:
“I am really proud to be the Head Coach of this great Club and to lead them out at Wembley will be a huge honour for me.It’s big for the town, it’s big for all the spectators, Wigan is a great sporting area and we are hoping to make history this week. It’s in our control, I should have my best team out and if we can get into our shapes, we will throw things at Hull and if they can defend it, fair play. We will be really competitive this weekend. I am under no illusions, Hull are a fantastic team, they are very well Coached and we need to be at our best to win the game.”
Hull FC coach Peter Gentle:
“It’s a wonderful achievement from the squad I’ve got, from the staff, from everyone involved. Whether you like it or not, it is a big distraction playing in the Challenge Cup final, it’s a wonderful distraction don’t get me wrong, but to pick up three wins since our Warrington win (in the semi-final) and consolidated our spot (in the Super League table). It’s always been out of our hands where we were going to finish and it still is – we’ve still got a home semi to play for, we’ve got to win our last couple of games – but we can concentrate wholly and solely on the Challenge Cup now.”
Josh Charnley, Dom Crosby, Gil Dudson, Liam Farrell, Ben Flower, Darrell Goulding, Blake Green, Harrison Hansen, Jack Hughes, Michael McIlorum, Lee Mossop, Sean O’Loughlin (c), Pat Richards, Matty Smith, Scott Taylor, Iain Thornley, Logan Tomkins, Sam Tomkins, Chris Tuson.
Tom Briscoe, Jason Crookes, Ben Crooks, Gareth Ellis (c), Chris Green, Aaron Heremaia, Richard Horne, Daniel Holdsworth, Danny Houghton, Andy Lynch, Jacob Miller, Mark O’Meley, Jay Pitts, Jamie Shaul, Danny Tickle, Watts, Joe Westerman, Richard Whiting, Kirk Yeaman.