Leeds might be, as the Wigan second row Phil Bailey said this week, the benchmark by which other rugby league teams are judged, but Brian Noble does not exactly quake in his boots when his men are due to face them. The Wigan coach has a remarkable record at Headingley, winning 11 of 17 matches there with his current side and, previously, the Bradford Bulls.
Wigan beat Leeds three times last season and produced their best performance of this term in beating them 14-10 at Headingley at the start of April. So when the two clubs came out of the velvet bag together for today's Carnegie Challenge Cup quarter-final, there was no reason for Wigan fans to assume the worst. "But we'll need to be a whole lot better than we were against Wakefield," said Noble, reflecting on a 38-30 win at Belle Vue last weekend.
For this afternoon's match, the former Great Britain coach has included Cameron Phelps, a wing or centre from Canterbury who only flew in this week. Despite his recent arrival, the Australian could be seen as a safer option for a game like this than one or two of Wigan's young fringe players.
The three other quarter-finals, which are being played tomorrow, all have an element of newness about them. Hull Kingston Rovers had the presence of mind to register Michael Dobson in time for this round of the cup and he makes a second appearance for his new club against the holders, St Helens. A similar impact to the one he made with two tries against Harlequins on his debut last Sunday would be very welcome.
The new dimension for Hull is provided by the elevation of Richard Agar to head coach. For the tie at Bradford, he hopes to have Shaun Berrigan and Adam Dykes fit and available – a rarity since the pair arrived from Australia at the start of the season – but he is without another high-profile import, Peter Cusack. Bradford have Iestyn Harris back, but not Paul Deacon.
Wakefield may give a debut to their major mid-season signing, the Gold Coast winger Matt Petersen, against Oldham, the only non-Super League club left in the competition.
This tie brings together the coaching team that took Sheffield Eagles to an unlikely Wembley triumph 10 years ago. Wakefield's John Kear was head coach of the side that beat Wigan in one of the greatest upsets of all and Steve Deakin, now with Oldham, was his assistant. Their meeting tomorrow afternoon is a reminder that unlikely things still happen in the cup, if only occasionally.
The Catalan Dragons' loose-forward Grégory Munis has committed himself to the club by agreeing a new three-year contract.Reuse content