The real challenge: who will be the history man?

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The Independent Online

As two players who are frequently placed on pedestals by their fellow professionals, it was fitting that Adrian Morley and Jamie Peacock should have had an extra duty during the build-up to the Challenge Cup final.

The Warrington Wolves captain and Leeds Rhinos' recent England captain will face each other at Wembley next Saturday. Before that, their counsel was required on a decision that will go some way towards defining rugby league's relationship with the stadium.

Next Thursday, the subject of the game's statue – its Bobby Moore equivalent – will be unveiled. Just about the last word on the matter went to the two veteran prop forwards, who will lock horns there in six days' time.

Faced with a shortlist of five, both were agreed on one thing over lunch in an Italian restaurant in Manchester. "It's probably a generation thing, but to me the greatest British player ever is Ellery Hanley," says Peacock. "He was my hero as well," agrees Morley, six months older at 35. "He should definitely be on the list."

From the actual list, he plumps for Alex Murphy. "I never saw him play, but my dad says he's the best scrum-half ever. He's coming down to Wembley with us, because he's an ambassador for the Warrington club. "Mind you, Billy Boston's daughter has a pub at the end of our road, so I don't want to fall out with her either."

If Peacock had his way, both would be immortalised, along with the other contenders, Gus Risman, Eric Ashton and Martin Offiah, in a group statue. "Something to represent the whole history of rugby league," he says. It's an appropriate, diplomatic answer from a player who has made it clear that he sees a future in administration when he hangs up his boots.

"That's what I'm looking to, rather than coaching," he says. "As an administrator you can change the game – and I love the game."

Peacock used to lack self- confidence to such a degree that as an 18-year-old he stayed on the bus rather than get off it for a trial at Bradford, but now he is a motivational speaker whose engagements have included Armley Prison. "The message is all about getting off that bus and about deciding who you want to be influenced by."

Peacock made the difficult decision this season to stand down from the captaincy of England and retire from international rugby. It was a choice he was happy with until his inner patriot – never far from the surface – was reawakened by the Olympic Games. "I was OK with it until I saw them all celebrating their medals and I thought that I wouldn't have that feeling of representing my country again."

For Morley, that decision was taken out of his hands, at least in the short term, this season when he was left out of the England side for the two-match series against the Exiles. "It wasn't exactly a big surprise," he says. "I was just back from injury and I'd only got a couple of games under my belt."

It's something he has had to come to terms with; the old indestructibility compromised by the passage of time. "I was flying. I thought I could play this game for ever," he says. "I'd still like to think that I can do enough before the end of the season to put my name forward."

"You'd be in if it was picked now," says Peacock over the antipasti. Morley has been back to his formidable best in the past few weeks. Both are drawing inspiration from younger players alongside them. In Morley's case, that is Chris Hill, a front-rower making a big impression in his first season in Super League. "He's the form prop at Warrington just now," he says. "He's certainly keeping me and Gaz Carvell on our toes."

Peacock is equally enthusiastic about the 18-year-old Stevie Ward, who pulled out of the Academy tour to Australia in order to stake his claim for a Wembley place.

The loss of Danny McGuire with a knee injury means that Ward is even more certain to be chosen, probably at stand-off. "I've no doubt he'll handle it," says Peacock. "He's confident without being cocky and you can just see that he's got it."

To buy tickets for the Challenge Cup final on Saturday, call the RFL ticket office on 0844 856 1113 or visit

Key battles at Wembley

Full-back: Wolves' Brett Hodgson is a little creaky but still a master craftsman, while Zak Hardaker has been a revelation there for Leeds.

Wing The Rhinos' Ryan Hallis is the best finisher in the game, but he will be up against the equally imposing Joel Monaghan.

Half-back There is no more influential player in big games than Kevin Sinfield but no one has more ability to surprise than the Wolves' Lee Briers.

Hooker Warrington will divide the duties between Michael Monaghan and Mickey Higham, but the impact of Rob Burrow could be crucial.

Dave Hadfield