Huddersfield had good and bad news on the eve of today's Powergen Challenge Cup final, with their captain, Chris Thorman, passed fit, but Keith Mason, one of their handful of players with experience of the big occasion, ruled out.
Thorman's recovery from a hamstring injury is a huge boost for the Giants, in the final for the first time since 1962. "I've trained at 100 per cent the last two days and I've not had any adverse effects," Thorman said. "I've been through a lot of scenarios in my head, but I'll be leading the team out."
Thorman has had a variety of treatments, including acupuncture, on the injury which forced him off the field against Hull 13 days ago. "I've had a couple of sleepless nights, but I'm really psyched up for it now and ready to have a big game against St Helens."
The Giants' coach, Jon Sharp, is confident that Thorman does not represent a risk. "We've pushed him to the max the last couple of days and he's come through with flying colours," he said. "It's given the whole team a lift. He's a very vocal player who improves the players around him."
Thorman will leave goal-kicking duties to Michael De Vere as a precaution, but that will not weaken Huddersfield. The loss of the experienced Mason, however, is a blow. "He hurt a hamstring in practice on Monday and his body has decided for him that he isn't right and ready to go," Sharp said. "Another couple of days and he would have been right."
Mason's absence means that Wayne McDonald and Steve Snitch are likely to be on the bench. All the other players who have been carrying knocks - Paul Reilly, Brad Drew, Stuart Donlan and Martin Aspinwall - have been passed fit. "They don't need me to tell them what a big occasion it is," Sharp said.
Twickenham is not expected to be full, partly because of disappointment among supporters that the final is there rather than at Wembley and partly because Huddersfield have found it hard to sell their 10,000-ticket allocation.
Few neutrals expect them to come close to upsetting Saints, although they have beaten them in Super League this season and showed in their semi-final victory over Leeds how they can raise their intensity when they need to.
Sheffield and Hull have won finals against the odds in recent years, but they were not playing sides in such consistently excellent form as St Helens are at the moment. Saints reported no late scares yesterday and do not have the slightly vulnerable look of Wigan in 1998 or Leeds last year.
It will be a bigger upset than either of those finals if Huddersfield carry off the Cup for the first time since 1953, but Saints will not make the mistake of under-estimating them. Their coach, Daniel Anderson, was unconcerned yesterday about the inclusion of Thorman. "We were prepared for him to play," he said. "He's a quality player and I wouldn't expect him to miss the game."
Anderson has told one of his regulars, Nick Fozzard, that he will miss the game. "He's disappointed, but I have five front-rowers in fantastic form," he said.
FB Paul Wellens
RW Ade Gardner
RC Jamie Lyon
LC Willie Talau
LW Francis Meli
SO Leon Pryce
SH Sean Long
P Paul Anderson
H Keiron Cunningham
P Jason Cayless
SR Jon Wilkin
SR Paul Sculthorpe (capt)
LF Jason Hooper
Substitutes: James Roby, James Graham, Lee Gilmour, Maurie Faiasavalu
FB Paul Reilly
RW Martin Aspinwall
RC Chris Nero
LC Michael de Vere
LW Stuart Donlan
SO Chris Thorman (capt)
SH Robbie Paul
P Jim Gannon
H Brad Drew
P Paul Jackson
SR Stuart Jones
SR Paul Smith
LF Stephen Wild
Substitutes: Eorl Crabtree, Andy Raleigh, Wayne McDonald, Steve Snitch.Reuse content