McRae rails at Smith's selection

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The St Helens coach, Shaun McRae, named a Wembley side with no surprises yesterday and then cast doubt on the line-up named by Bradford Bulls, writes Dave Hadfield.

Despite dark warnings of axe-wielding, McRae has selected a team with just one change from the semi-final, with the prolific young Danny Arnold replacing Alan Hunte, who is one of five potential substitutes competing for four places.

"There are players in the starting line-up who can consider themselves extremely lucky," said the Australian, who has yet to coach a losing Saints side. "They have certainly been spoken to about their performances over the last couple of weeks."

McRae's harshest words, however, were reserved for his opposite number, the Bulls coach, Brian Smith, who sprang a major surprise the previous day by naming Jon Hamer in the front row despite his last first-team appearance, as substitute, being as long ago as early January.

"I don't take any notice of that side," he said. "To suggest that Hamer will play is ridiculous. He must think we're in Disneyland, but when has Brian Smith ever named a squad a few days before a game that has actually played?

"I would be very surprised if a player who hasn't played in the first team for four months was used, unless he has been doing secret training somewhere."

Like McRae, however, Smith could be planning to make extensive use of his substitutes, with Hamer expected only to contribute in the first quarter.

The Saints coach is likely to have three men on his bench - Tommy Martyn, Vila Matautia and Ian Pickavance - who have been used effectively recently as impact players late in games.

This is the first 17-man Wembley and both coaches know that their ability to mix and match on the pitch will be crucial.

St Helens (v Bradford, Silk Cut Challenge Cup final, Wembley, Saturday): Prescott; Arnold, Gibbs, Newlove, Sullivan; Hammond, Goulding; Perelini, Cunningham, Leathem, Joynt, Booth, Northey. Substitutes (from): Hunte, Martyn, Matautia, Morley, Pickavance.