Saints have hunger back - Clough

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The Independent Online

St Helens have regained their hunger for the Challenge Cup, according to second rower Paul Clough.

After completing a hat-trick of cup final successes, Saints missed out in 2009 after suffering a shock semi-final defeat to Huddersfield and Clough says they will take the memory of that painful experience into tomorrow's last-four showdown with Leeds.

"Last year was deeply disappointing and watching the game on television for the first time for a while and not being part of it really hurt," said Clough, who was a member of the Saints side that lifted the cup at Wembley in 2007 and 2008.

"It made us hungry again. Guys like myself who have been to Wembley before and are still young want it just as much as guys like Paul Wellens and Keiron Cunningham who have been there many a time.

"But it's not our right to be there. It's a privilege and an honour and we've got to earn that privilege and that honour."

Although Clough has missed only one game this season, he is not taking his place in tomorrow's line-up for granted as he recalls a piece of advice given to him by former team-mate Willie Talau.

"He was an established first-team player who played for New Zealand and his name was always on our team list but he always felt that, when the coach was calling the names out, there was always a chance that he may not be in it," he said.

"And I think that's the way you've got to approach it because it keeps you on your toes. When you're under pressure, you either crack and crumble or you step up to the next level and that gives you that extra 10% that makes you a better player."

Still only 22, Clough has become one of the more experienced members of the St Helens side following the departures of Talau, Paul Sculthorpe, Sean Long, Jason Cayless and Lee Gilmour over the last two years and he is enjoying the competition from the crop of talented youngsters who have been blooded into the team by coach Mick Potter.

"All these youngsters coming through great for the club and great for me because I'm constantly looking over my shoulder," he said. "It means I have to play well every week."

One of those promising youngsters, goalkicking winger or full-back Jonny Lomax, returns from injury, along with veteran Australian centre Matt Gidley, to Saints' 19-man squad for the game at Huddersfield.

Leeds will be without second rower Carl Ablett, who lost his appeal against a three-match suspension, as well as injured back row forwards Ali Lauitiiti and Greg Eastwood but coach Brian McClennan is able to recall second rower Ian Kirke, centre Lee Smith and hooker Matt Diskin, who all missed last Friday's League defeat by Wigan.

Diskin, one of five survivors from the Leeds team that gained a famous extra-time win over Saints in the 2003 semi-final at the Galpharm Stadium, is poised to make his first appearance since June after recovering from a groin injury.