Rugby Union: Wigan ready for Headingley test

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The Independent Online
LAST SEASON'S two best teams, Leeds and Wigan, will meet at the first opportunity in this year's Silk Cut Challenge Cup.

The inaugural Super League Grand Finalists were drawn together in the fourth round last night, with last year's Cup winners, the Sheffield Eagles, also facing a tough task at Salford, the side they beat in the Cup semi-finals.

Wigan's coach, John Monie, does not believe that beating Leeds at Old Trafford in the last game of 1998, will have a big influence on this tie. "We would all prefer to draw someone other than them, especially in the first game," he said. "But I think we are stronger than last season.

"I rather enjoy going to Headingley and I think the players do as well. There was nothing in all the games between the two teams last year, and there is no reason to think that it will be any different this year," he added.

John Kear, coach of Sheffield, the holders, expects Salford to try to exact revenge for their controversial defeat in the semi-final last time.

"It's a tough old draw for us. Andy Gregory and his boys will be highly motivated and focused because they felt very hard done by in that semi- final," he said.

There is one other all-Super League encounter, between Castleford and Hull, but much of the attention will concentrate on the surviving small fry. Leigh Miners-Rangers, the one amateur side to beat professional opposition in the third round, have been rewarded with a home draw against Hull KR.

"A draw at home is everything we wanted," said their coach, Ian Taylor. "It's a fantastic draw. The main thing was to be at home, and Hull KR are a big name with a proud cup tradition. We have eight ex-professional players in our team, and they've been in this position before. It's not an impossible task."

Featherstone Lions, who beat Hemel Hempstead, are at home to Halifax, while Doncaster, who beat Oldham St Annes in extra time after embarrassing confusion over whether there would be a replay, go to London Broncos. The Broncos have released their new prop, Marty McKenzie, who has yet to play a game for them because he needs a back operation.

Greg McCallum, the League's controller of referees, has launched an inquiry into why neither side nor the referee, Russell Smith, knew about the new rule requiring ties to be settled at the first attempt. "I can promise that it will not happen again," he said.

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