Leeds v Wigan preview.
Sinfield relishes underdog tag
Leeds captain Kevin Sinfield says his team are in the mood to exact revenge for last year's Wembley defeat when they meet Wigan in the first Carnegie Challenge Cup semi-final at Huddersfield.
The reigning Super League champions were outside the top eight just a month ago but four consecutive victories, albeit against teams below them in the table, have lifted them to fifth and provided a timely boost to their hopes of reaching Wembley for the third successive year.
"We needed to start playing well and get some results," Sinfield said. "It's always nice to go into a big game like this with some form behind you.
"I must say the lads are buoyant at the minute. They're bouncing around the training ground and looking forward to this one.
"It's a different feel to where we were at five or six weeks ago so we're ready for this.
"In my mind, I don't think there was any question that we would turn it around.
"There was always the belief and, if you look around the group, with quality of player and the character we've got, you knew that we'd get it together soon.
"We need to lift in intensity, we're aware of that. Wigan are running number one at the minute, they're the best team in the comp."
Wigan demonstrated their excellence with a 50-8 rout of the Rhinos at Headingley just six weeks ago and Sinfield, who will be appearing in his ninth Challenge Cup semi-final, admits victory tomorrow would represent a remarkable transformation.
"For us to turn that around, we need to be 60 or 70 per cent better than we were that night, if not a bit more," he said.
"Wigan were red hot and they had a number of players missing as well. They had quite a few young lads in who performed brilliantly.
"It would be an achievement but that's the beauty of sport. Two unevenly-matched teams come up against each other and the underdog manages to do it.
"I think the beauty of our team is we've got some experienced players who have been in a similar scenario to that and hopefully we can draw on that.
"I think the intensity on Saturday will go through the roof."
Leeds lost 28-18 at Wembley last August but they are the last team to beat Wigan in the Cup, courtesy of a last-gasp quarter-final triumph in 2010.
And, although Warriors have done the double over the Rhinos in Super League this year, coach Shaun Wane is treating the tie with caution.
"It's a whole new ball game," he said. "We've not been speaking about the last two games.
"They're playing well and they've got players in their team who can turn up for big games. They've done it before and they'll do it again. I just hope it's not against us.
"We need to be at our very best. It's semi-final football, one chance and you're gone."
Wigan suffered a hiccup with a recent home defeat by Bradford but they bounced back in style at Wakefield last Sunday and Wane believes Leeds may go into the game a little "under-done".
"They've not played many big games in the last few week," he said. "They've not had many good arm wrestles, I wouldn't have thought.
"But they're a good team. Everything went well for us the last time we played them. They were ordinary that night but it won't give me anything for this weekend's game.
"They've added a bit to how they attack since then, with (Zak) Hardaker being at full-back, and I've shown my players lots of clips of him.
"This is a game I badly want to win. It would be the best moment of my life to lead this team out at Wembley."
Wigan will have winger Josh Charnley, hooker Michael McIlorum and prop forwards Jeff Lima and Paul Prescott all returning to their squad after sitting out the win at Wakefield last Sunday.
Matty Smith and Iain Thornley, who made their debuts against the Wildcats, are ineligible and Logan Tomkins also drops out.
Leeds have veteran prop Kylie Leuluai returning in place of Richard Moore and England second rower Jamie Jones-Buchanan is also back after sitting out the win over Hull last Friday.