We take a look at what is being said as the Challenge Cup quarter-finals get underway on Friday with Catalans Dragons taking on Warrington Wolves and Huddersfield Giants facing St Helens, live on Sky Sports…
Catalans Dragons vs Warrington Wolves (6pm, live on Sky Sports)
Friday’s first quarter-final will bring back memories of an iconic moment in recent rugby league history when Catalans Dragons beat Warrington Wolves in the 2018 final.
The Dragons became the first French team to lift the Cup with a 20-14 victory at Wembley, with seven members of that team still part of head coach Steve McNamara’s squad for this clash.
Catalans Dragons vs Warrington Wolves
May 7, 2021, 5:30pm
One player who has since joined Catalans and was part of the Wigan Warriors team picking up a Super League Grand Final winners’ ring that same season is Tom Davies, who finished as Super League’s second-highest try-scorer last year with 12.
He ran in a hat-trick in the 38-18 win over Wakefield Trinity as well in a week which saw him named in the latest England Knights squad and while McNamara is delighted with his performances, the former national team boss would not be drawn on whether the winger should be in the full squad.
“I’ve been in Shaun Wane’s shoes where everyone is telling the England head coach who he should and shouldn’t pick,” McNamara said. “Shaun knows Tom Davies as well as anybody from his time at Wigan and knows his capabilities.
“It’s potentially the right step for Tom at this stage, but he is going to be pushing really hard at the end of the year – but it’s a long way to go until the end of the year.
“Let’s just let the England coach watch the games and make his own decisions, but Tom Davies is a very, very good player and is improving all the time.”
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Warrington, who secured an impressive 24-8 win over Catalans in Perpignan two weeks ago, made up for that loss in 2018 the following year when they saw off St Helens to lift the Cup for the ninth time.
One of the players involved in the 18-4 win over Saints was Jason Clark, with the Australian back row at that time being in his first season with the Wolves and still getting used to what the Challenge Cup was all about.
“It was a bit weird trying to get to grips with it, but I’ve grown to enjoy it a lot more now,” Clark said of the knockout competition. “It’s so enjoyable, being a kid from Sydney, going down to Wembley and winning and walking up the stadium getting the medal.
“We were also waiting in the tunnel quite a while and I ended up next to Prince Harry. I didn’t know whether to shake his hand or what to do. It’s an unbelievable experience that some players don’t get to have.”
Catalans Dragons: Arthur Mourgue, Tom Davies, Samisoni Langi, Dean Whare, Fouad Yaha, James Maloney, Josh Drinkwater, Gil Dudson, Micky McIlorum, Julian Bousquet, Mike McMeeken, Benjamin Garcia, Alrix Da Costa, Benjamin Jullien, Matthieu Laguerre, Joel Tomkins, Mathieu Cozza, Jason Baitieri, Joe Chan, Sam Kasiano, Sam Tomkins.
Warrington Wolves: Sitaleki Akauola, Blake Austin, Rob Butler, Josh Charnley, Daryl Clark, Jason Clark, Mike Cooper, Ben Currie, Matt Davis, Chris Hill, Jack Hughes, Greg Inglis, Toby King, Tom Lineham, Jake Mamo, Robbie Mulhern, Joe Philbin, Stefan Ratchford, Josh Thewlis, Danny Walker, Gareth Widdop.
St Helens vs Huddersfield Giants (8.15pm, live on Sky Sports)
You have to go all the way back to 1953 to find the sixth and, to date, last time Huddersfield lifted the Challenge Cup – with that 15-10 triumph coincidentally coming against Friday’s quarter-final opponents St Helens.
The Giants have only been to the final twice in the intervening 68 years, losing 42-12 to Saints at Twickenham in 2006 and then going down 25-16 to Warrington three years later, so would dearly love to bring a long-awaited trophy back to the birthplace of rugby league.
St Helens vs Huddersfield Giants
May 7, 2021, 8:00pm
Huddersfield come into this last-eight clash on the back of a nail-biting 14-13 win over Leeds Rhinos in Super League last Sunday, which got them on the board in the league for the first time since Ian Watson took charge and followed the third-round Cup win over Leigh Centurions.
Head coach Watson, who guided Salford Red Devils to a first Wembley appearance in over half a century last year, believes it is another sign of the progress the Giants are making.
“It was important to come through that because Huddersfield have had a lot of close defeats, especially against Leeds, and to get across the line is a really good sign,” Watson said.
“We’ve still got things to work on. It’s going to be an ongoing process for a while because the players are still getting used to me and I’m still getting used to the players.”
The Giants were involved in a close battle with St Helens in Super League recently, with the back-to-back champions emerging 18-10 winners at the John Smith’s Stadium to maintain their unbeaten start to 2021 in all competitions.
Although third on the all-time list of Challenge Cup winners with 12 titles, success in the competition has eluded Saints since they beat Hull FC in 2008 to claim the last of three straight triumphs.
Head coach Kristian Woolf is eager to add another success in the competition to the club’s honours list and is in no doubt this test is just what the team needs.
“It’s what the players want,” Woolf, who has winger Tommy Makinson available again, said. “They want a big game and it’s what excites them.
“We got a real good look at Huddersfield two weeks ago so we know how tough it is going to be but having that fresh in the memory is a real positive and I know the players will be up for it at the weekend.”
St Helens: Lachlan Coote, Tommy Makinson, Kevin Naiqama, Mark Percival, Regan Grace, Jonny Lomax, Theo Fages, Alex Walmsley, James Roby, Joel Thompson, Morgan Knowles, Sione Mata’utia, Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Kyle Amor, Agnatius Paasi, Jack Welsby, Aaron Smith, Joe Batchelor, Lewis Dodd, Dan Norman, Ben Davies.
Huddersfield Giants: Jermaine McGillvary, Ricky Leutele, Darnell McIntosh, Lee Gaskell, Aidan Sezer, Luke Yates, Adam O’Brien, Michael Lawrence, Kenny Edwards, Josh Jones, Matty English, Joe Greenwood, Jack Cogger, Chris McQueen, Jack Ashworth, James Cunningham, Oliver Wilson, Leroy Cudjoe, James Gavet, Owen Trout, Sam Wood.
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