Hull eye cup route to glory

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The Independent Online

Hull face a major barrier today as they try to once more become the type of club that wins competitions. They might now be firmly established as one of the game's "big five", but Hull have not lifted a major trophy since the Premiership in 1991.

Hull face a major barrier today as they try to once more become the type of club that wins competitions. They might now be firmly established as one of the game's "big five", but Hull have not lifted a major trophy since the Premiership in 1991.

Now their coach, John Kear, who masterminded one of the competition's great upsets when he took Sheffield to victory in 1998, believes that lifting the Challenge Cup would transform the club.

"It would take it up to the next level," he said as he prepared for this afternoon's tie against Bradford. "The whole city would get behind the club." A place in the last eight is at stake today, but Hull's recent form has not been convincing and Bradford seem to have got over their early-season stutter.

Despite that, the Bulls' Robbie Paul believes there is an argument for installing Hull as favourites.

"Hull are a good team with some great players. They are at home, they play in a fantastic stadium with one of the most vocal crowds in the world of sport," he said. "The pressure is on them, because a lot is expected of them."

Bradford add Michael Withers to the side that outlasted the London Broncos to swamp them in the second half last week.

Today's other tie should ensure a French presence in the quarter-finals when Toulouse should have the upper hand against visitors Doncaster.

The pick of tomorrow's ties is at Salford, where the struggling Broncos are the visitors. It is a mark of Salford's progress this season - they lie fifth in Super League - that, although they had one player selected in Great Britain's squad this week, a case could be made for three others.

David Hodgson, who has been a revelation at full-back filling in for the injured Karl Fitzpatrick, was the man to get the nod, but the Reds coach, Karl Harrison, believes that Malcolm Alker, Andy Coley and Luke Robinson were also worthy of consideration.

After six consecutive Super League defeats, the cup could come as a welcome change of scene for the Broncos, who have agreed a two-year contract extensions with Thomas Leuluai and Tyrone Smith.

Leigh, buoyed by last weekend's victory over Wakefield, should be good enough to beat Halifax.

Widnes go to Barrow without Gary Connolly, who is on his honeymoon, but with three backs all available again after injury or illness.

Jon Whittle has recovered from a hamstring injury, Misili Manu is back after mumps and Adam Hughes could make his first start of the season.

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