Wellens and Pryce will spearhead the resistance to Rhinos' charge

Some at Leeds might try to deny it, but this season's priority has always been the Challenge Cup.

Beaten in the World Club Challenge and slightly off the pace in Super League, which they have monopolised over the past three years, today's semi-final against St Helens assumes an extra significance.

Set against their success in Grand Finals, the 11 years since they won the Cup or even played at Wembley looks and feels like an unconscionable length of time. Thus Kevin Sinfield, the Leeds captain for most of the intervening period, is unable to compare the two competitions.

"I can't tell you how good it would feel to win the Cup, because I've never won it," he says. "I can tell you what winning a Grand Final feels like."

One Leeds player who does know what victory at Wembley feels like is Keith Senior, a member of the Sheffield Eagles side that beat Wigan against all the odds in 1998, and he could have a key role to play in his native Huddersfield today.

With Carl Ablett suspended and Greg Eastwood and Ali Lauitiiti injured, Senior could be required to play all or part of the game in the second row, a switch for which he has long looked destined but one he has largely avoided up to now. That would free up a place in the centres for Lee Smith, who, despite the unevenness of his contribution since his return from his brief exile in rugby union, has the look and the record of a big-match player.

Anyone playing in the Rhinos' pack can expect a ferocious pep-talk from Jamie Peacock, ratcheted up a notch from his animated address when they played Warrington.

"You couldn't have printed much of what I said that day and I should think I'll be that bit more fired up for a semi," he says, with the air of a man set on leading by example.

Not that Saints will lack motivation. Although their form, like Leeds', has been full of peaks and troughs, last week's win over Warrington suggested that they are hitting their best at the right time. Apart from the eternal lure of Wembley, they have a number of factors pushing them in the right direction.

Discarded internationals Paul Wellens and Leon Pryce want to show that they are still the best in their positions, the whole side wants to give Keiron Cunningham a suitable send-off and Mick Potter, despite playing it cool, does not want to be remembered as the first St Helens coach of the Super League era to finish his stint without silverware.

A few weeks ago, the outcome of tomorrow's other semi-final between the holders, Warrington, and the Catalan Dragons looked, even allowing for the vagaries of the Cup, close to a foregone conclusion.

Since then, however, the Wolves have suffered a couple of defeats that have reawakened doubts about their ability to win big matches, while the Catalans have had a couple of morale-boosting victories that have lifted them off the foot of the Super League table.

"We've got the strongest squad we've had available all season, so that's a good sign," said their coach, Kevin Walters, who returned on Tuesday from his father's funeral in Australia.

Casey McGuire, Clint Greenshields, Dallas Johnson and the former Warrington prop, Jerome Guisset, are all fit to play at Widnes tomorrow.

Another prop, David Ferriol, has denied comments attributed to him in a newspaper to the effect that Warrington's Adrian Morley is "past it".

"A mistake has been made somewhere," he said. Ferriol is no shrinking violet, but he may well think so the first time he clashes with Morley.

The Wolves captain is one who has emphasised how desperate they are to hang onto their trophy, having waited so long to win it last year.

Mickey Higham and Chris Bridge are still out and Simon Grix is recovering from viral pneumonia but, otherwise, Warrington are at full strength.

From a purely financial point of view, the game needs them to get to Wembley and guarantee a full house.

The key to doing that could be their wild card, David Solomona, who has been so adept this season at coming off the bench and turning a tight match with an uncanny pass.


Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk