The bookies have given the Castleford Tigers an eight point start on the coupon for the first all West Yorkshire final since Leeds lost to Bradford Bulls by two points at the Millennium Stadium in 2003. Separated by just fifteen miles, these two side have never met in a Challenge Cup Final. Since Castleford last graced Wembley, when they lost to Wigan in 1992, the Rhinos have played in nine final, although they have only picked up the trophy on one occasion.
Castleford have won four out of their five finals, while Leeds have been victorious in eleven of twenty-three attempts.
Much has been written over the last half a dozen seasons of the 'holy grail' Challenge Cup for Leeds, the trophy that we just can't seem to win. None of the current batch of Rhinos players were in the side on that great day in 1999 when Iestyn Harris lifted the famous old trophy, and the lads will be desperate to add this medal to their collections containing every other major honour in the game.
Brian McDermott named his seventeen man side as early as Monday's press conference. Few will be surprised that with everyone fit he's stuck with the same side that did so well to comprehensively defeat the Wolves in the semi-final.
The full nineteen is; Zak Hardaker, Kallum Watkins, Joel Moon, Ryan Hall, Danny McGuire, Rob Burrow, Kylie Leuluai, Paul Aiton, Jamie Peacock, Jamie Jones-Buchanan, Carl Ablett, Kevin Sinfield, Stevie Ward, Brett Delaney, Ryan Bailey, Ian Kirke, Mitch Achurch, Tom Biscoe, and Liam Sutcliffe. Providing there are no last minute scares then it will be Ward and Achurch who miss out on the Wembley experience.
Coach Powell will be supremely confident after his side eased past Widnes in the semi-final and his only real concern is over prop Craig Huby who will have a late fitness test. He names his nineteen as; Kirk Dixon, Michael Shenton, Jake Webster, Justin Carney, Luke Dorn, Marc Sneyd, Andy Lynch, Adam Milner, Craig Huby, Weller Hauraki, Nathan Massey, Daryl Clark, Oliver Holmes, Frankie Mariano, Scott Wheeldon, Jamie Ellis, Liam Finn, Lee Jewitt, and Garreth Carvell.
Both sides lost on their last outing. The Tigers not unsurprisingly at Warrington after resting several key players, but you'd have expected a Rhinos academy squad to have performed better than to lose to the London Broncos and give them their first win of the season.
They were two games which will tell us absolutely nothing about Saturday afternoon. In this instance you are not only as good as your last game.
We can glean more from the two meetings between the sides in 2014 where the Rhinos won the game at the 'Mend-a-Hose' by 22-14 although more recently it was honours shared at Headingley with a 24-24 draw just over a month ago, that fateful game where skipper Sinfield saw the first red card of his career. You can be sure that won't be repeated!
I'm tipping a Rhinos loss, primarily because that is what I did for the semi-final. Of course we can win, and according to the bookies we should win, but I do have a nagging doubt that the lads will have been letting the pressure build to a level where it could effect their performance.
The forecast for tomorrow is ideal for a cracking game. No rain, temperatures in the mid-teens and a little overcast. With these two sides that should equate to an open and flowing game as both teams give the ball air and thrilling the TV masses.
Travel safe, enjoy the match, and cheer the lads to a win...