Challenge Cup Final Preview

This weekend marks one of the highlights of the rugby league calendar, the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup final.

This year sees the most successful team in the competition’s history Wigan Warriors take on holders Hull FC. Wigan have 19 cups to their name compared to Hull FC’s four, which includes a 16-0 success over the Black and Whites in 2013.

The Warriors eased past Salford Red Devils in the semis while Lee Radford’s men proved their credentials with an impressive display over Leeds Rhinos.

Experienced full-back Steve Michaels has been brought into Radford’s 19-man match-day squad while former Great Britain international Gareth Ellis will make his final Wembley appearance before retiring at the end of the season.

Josh Griffin and Jake Connor could make their first Wembley appearances while Jansin Turgut misses out for the East Yorkshire club.

Radford is looking forward to what he thinks will be a close game.

“You’ve got two really good teams. Gareth Ellis and Sean O’Loughlin are two of the best players our country has ever produced and if you go through the teams, there are great battles all over the place,” he said.

Wigan head coach Shaun Wane has a wealth of experience at his fingertips. Hull FC have never won back-to-back cups having toppled Warrington Wolves last year thanks in part to Danny Houghton’s try-saving tackle. Hull FC last beat Wigan in the Challenge Cup back in 2000 at the quarter-final stage.

Full-back Sam Tomkins, who helped the club win the cup in 2011 and 2013, will have a key role to play. He is joined in the squad by brother Joel and winger Tom Davies, they replace Nick Gregson and Jack Wells in the Warriors 19-man squad.

England international George Williams has been impressive for the Cherry and Whites this season and his distribution and try-scoring ability could be the difference between the teams. Wigan will be out to maintain their excellent Wembley record, having won 17 of 24 final appearances at the famous stadium.

Like Radford, Wane is expecting a tough encounter under the Arch at Wembley.

“It’s going to be a big challenge, they’re a big athletic team, far bigger than us. But my team are very competitive and know how to win these big games,” he said.

We spoke with title sponsor Ladbrokes, and caught up with Alex Apati to get his thoughts on the big game 

I’m going to side with Hull FC on Saturday.

They’ve already seen off some big names en route to the final and, let’s not forget, they’re the current title holders.

Our traders can’t call this one and would be equally as happy to flip the odds on each side – that’s how close this game is.

I can see Hull just edging this one by 0-6 points, with Albert Kelly playing a huge part and I like the look of him grabbing a try at 11/8.

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