Rugby League: Wigan intent on revenge

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It is 20 years since they lost to St Helens in the Challenge Cup and it is a matter of massive importance to Wigan that they extend that sequence at Knowsley Road today.

Surrendering both the Super League Championship and the Silk Cut Challenge Cup to Saints last season still stings at Central Park.

"Nobody likes losing, especially here at Wigan, where we're not used to it," said Wigan's captain, Andy Farrell, as he broke off from his preparations this week.

"For Saints to take both trophies from us last year wasn't very nice. Watching them at Wembley was very hard. You don't realise until the final comes round, but everyone realises now.''

Wigan's need to win this match is so intense that only someone with a very short memory could back against them, but they will be more confident if Gary Connolly recovers sufficiently from his knee injury to take his place alongside Va'aiga Tuigamala, who has collected a new work permit.

If Connolly does play - and Graeme West has such regard for his mental and physical toughness that he will risk him if he is 75 per cent fit - then Kris Radlinski is likely to be preferred to Doc Murray at full- back.

The question for West's opposite number, Shaun McRae, is not who plays where, but whether his key man is in the right mood.

Bobbie Goulding was insistent this week that his wage dispute with St Helens and subsequent transfer request will not affect his performance against Wigan. He was putting that problem "in the cupboard'', he said.

The pick of tomorrow's ties is at Castleford, where Salford feel that they have every chance of coming away with a victory. Andy Gregory has strengthened his promoted side intelligently by investing in forwards of proven quality, in Andy Platt and John Cartwright. But Cas- tleford have recruited well themselves and, even if Adrian Vowles and Jason Lidden are less well-known to English crowds, they could prove influential figures tomorrow.

Salford will not be helped by the absence of their stand-off and goal- kicker, Steve Blakeley, which means Ian Watson partnering Mark Lee at half-back.

The Bradford coach, Matthew Elliott, has the luxury of leaving perhaps his two most talented players out of his starting line-up at Hunslet. Robbie Paul and Stuart Spruce will start on the bench, because their commitments in the World Nines stopped them training with their team-mates for most of the week.