Coaches urge player focus
Carnegie Challenge Cup final coaches Michael Maguire and Brian McDermott are confident their players will be able to maintain their focus on important Engage Super League matters this weekend.
Both Wigan Warriors and Leeds Rhinos face lowly opposition in their last matches before meeting at Wembley on Saturday week but neither can afford to slip up in Super League.
The table-topping Warriors, who are just a point in front of Warrington Wolves, take on Bradford Bulls at the DW Stadium tomorrow night while sixth-placed Leeds visit Harlequins RL on Saturday afternoon aiming to keep alive their outside hopes of snatching fourth spot for the second year in a row.
“We’re aware we’ve got a big game in a week’s time down at Wembley but Friday is very important as well,” said Maguire.
“We’re in a good position at the top of the Super League and we want to stay there. It’s something we’re working hard on.”
Maguire insists he has yet to finalise his Wembley line-up, with Paul Prescott and Gareth Hock both hoping to force their way into the side after missing the semi-final win over St Helens, and that, he believes, will help to concentrate the players’ minds on the job at hand.
“The focus is pretty easy,” he said.
“It’s about being able to perform well and then getting that opportunity to play well at Wembley.
“I don’t think many players will be taking their eye off what they need to be doing. With the players we’ve got available, it’s about performing and, if they perform, they’ll get the chance.”
Wigan are on an 11-match unbeaten run while Leeds, too, will be aiming to head to Wembley in good spirits by extending their winning sequence to six matches.
They are only a point behind Catalan Dragons, who face Warrington on Saturday evening, and McDermott has set his sights on overhauling a fast-fading Huddersfield Giants, who are three points in front in fourth place ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Salford City Reds.
“I know our points difference is getting better and I know there are a couple of teams that are within touching distance of us so, if we win and other results go our way, we can climb further up the table,” he said.
“It’s massively advantageous to be finishing fourth and we are gunning for that spot. We want to keep up the momentum of the last few weeks and all the players are keen to play.
“I think the best nick to be going into Wembley is on the back of a very strong performance with your running legs and no cobwebs in your lungs.”
Bradford have nothing but pride to play for after last week’s 34-8 home defeat by Hull KR effectively ended their play-off hopes but coach Mick Potter has not given up hope of pulling off a shock.
“We see it as an opportunity to get the two points - that’s all,” he said.
“To have better performance overall is the aim and hopefully that reflects on the scoreboard at the end.”
Huddersfield need to arrest a woeful run of away form if they are to hang onto a top-four spot, with the Dragons breathing down their neck.
The Giants have lost their last six matches on their travels going back to May and will be without both Danny Brough and Luke Robinson, as well as Australian forward Luke O’Donnell, for their trip to Salford.
Like Bradford, the Reds have given up hope of a play-off spot but new coach Matt Parish is hoping to mark the penultimate match at the Willows with his first victory.
“I think there’s a lot to play for,” he said. “We were pretty ordinary last week.
“We’re in front of our own fans and there are only two games left at the Willows.
“We’re playing another Super League heavyweight and I believe Huddersfield won pretty easily earlier in the year.
“There is a lot of pride on the line tomorrow and I’d like to think our blokes will stand up to be counted.”