Rugby League: Schofield's role crucial in cup: Leeds take a gamble

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The Independent Online
GARRY SCHOFIELD is an unlikely scrum-half, but the question of how he handles an unfamiliar role is crucial for Leeds' chances in today's Silk Cut Challenge Cup tie against Warrington. Schofield returned last week after a five-week absence with an ankle injury, coming on to replace the selected scrum-half, Jason Donohue, and engineering the win over Salford.

The Great Britain captain has long regarded himself as a specialist stand-off, but the form of the young Graham Holroyd during his absence has blocked a return to the position.

How comfortable he will be around the scrum when harried by the canny Greg Mackey is open to doubt, but Leeds need Schofield to create chances for their back line if they are to make progress in the one competition left open to them.

Leeds were relieved by Harvey Howard's escape without suspension after his sending-off against Salford, but not as relieved as Warrington when they found that Jonathan Davies's groin strain in the World Sevens was not serious.

With his return restoring them to virtual full-strength, they will start as slight favourites this afternoon despite Leeds' home advantage and the way they came from behind to beat Warrington in the league at Headingley earlier this season.

The main attraction tomorrow is inevitably at Hull, where the holders, Wigan, continue their defence of a trophy they have won for six years in succession.

John Dorahy's main doubt is Phil Clarke, who has returned from Sydney with a knee injury. If he is ruled out, Andrew Farrell will play loose forward with Billy McGinty coming into the second row. Otherwise, McGinty will be on the bench alongside Shaun Edwards, who cannot find a place at half-back ahead of the Kiwi combination of Sam Panapa and Frano Botica.

Martin Offiah, who, like Edwards, was barred from playing last week after missing the sevens, returns on the left wing in place of Va'aiga Tuigamala. Barrie-Jon Mather resumes at centre.

Hull's coach, Royce Simmons, has delayed selection because of doubts over four players. Des Hasler is waiting for the results of blood tests on a stubborn virus, Richard Gay and James Grant have ankle injuries, and Daniel Divet a 'dead' leg.

In the other all-First Division ties, last year's finalists, Widnes, who have David Hulme back in action, will fancy their chances at home to Sheffield Eagles. But Hull KR, without their three overseas imports, could go out to Featherstone.

The most vulnerable side facing lower opposition are Oldham. They will be without the cup-tied Glen Liddiard and Barrie McDermott, banned for two matches after being sent off at Sheffield last weekend, against Doncaster, who until last week had the longest unbeaten run in the league.