Tony Smith has declared a full bill of health, with Senior and McGuire making fast recoveries from knocks they suffered against the Bulls. Poching, Calderwood and Ward who all missed last weeks game are also in the twenty. How much of this is mind games on Smiths part we won't find out until the seventeens are announced, but the way that Senior reacted to his injury last friday makes me think that he's not got a chance of figuring for Leeds. If he does, and stands up to eighty minutes in the pressure cooker Cardiff atmosphere, the Rhinos back-room boys will have performed a miracle.
I'd like to see Sinfield and Burrow start at half-backs with Ellis at loose forward, this is our strongest combination. Such a set-up would leave McGuire on the bench and may mean Dunemann being the unlucky one who misses out on the seventeen. McDermott must be sweating on his place after a shocker last week, but Tony Smith will know that was a one-off, and McDermott has the experience and skills to be a calming influence on the rest of the lads. My seventeen would be (assuming Senior is fit); Mathers, Calderwood, Walker, Senior, Bai, Sinfield, Burrow, Bailey, Diskin, Ward, JJB, McKenna, Ellis. Subs: McGuire, McDermott, Lauiti'iti, Poching. Tony's will probably be very different.
John Kear also has a strong line-up from which to select his seventeen. Richie Barnett and Peter Lupton are the only two players who are ruled out with injury. They have the players to defeat any side in Superleague, as they have proved so far this season. Kear will also look to keep Smith guessing right up until the last minute from his squad of; Briscoe, Blacklock, Yeaman, Raynor, Horne R., Dowes, Swain, King, McMenemy, Kearney, Cooke, Tony, Thackray, Saxton, Chester, Higgins, Carvell, Brough, Horne G., and Whiting.
Three Airlie Birds to Keep an eye on;
Hull FC have done it tough to get to the final, and if the difficult route was justification for lifting the trophy, it would already have Black and White ribbons on it. It has been Superleague opposition all the way, including both the Bulls and last years winners, Saints. It was the route we trod when we last won the coveted trophy in 1999.
The Rhinos, by comparison, have had it relatively easy with wins over; Warrington, SM Pia, London and Toulouse. Leeds have, however, beaten the Airlie Birds on the two occasions that they have played them so far this season. A 16-12 win at the KC in Round 1 was followed by a 34-14 win in early June. Plenty more stats here.
Both sides go into the final on the back of losses in last weeks Superleague regular rounds. Hull were narrowly beaten by Wigan, but had trailed heavily early on in the game, whilst the Rhinos were given a major drubbing at the hands of the arch-enemy, the Bradford Bulls. One thing is for sure, the Rhinos can't play that badly two weeks in succession.
I'm under pain of death not to predict the score, and most definitely not to tip a Rhinos win, so I won't!
The Rhinos are big favourites with the bookies, who are giving Hull a ten point start on the coupon, or offering you odds of 11/4 on a Hull win. The Rhinos are 1/3 to lift the trophy, a bet that only a madman would take. Better betting revolves around Lance Todd Trophy winner with Sinfield and McGuire both at 6/1, Burrow looking good at 12/1 or how about the Harry Sunderland Trophy Winner Matt Diskin at 20/1. There is a myriad of other great bets on there too.
The weather forcasters reckon that it will be sunny all day tomorrow. Great for drinking on the pavements, but of little relevance in the ground as the roof is likely to be closed.
I'm starting to get really excited now, with little of the trepidation of past finals. Perhaps the lads have convinced me that they can do it and that there is no need to worry. Hopefully this isn't just pride before a fall.
Whatever happens it will be a great day, drive safely, take your time and enjoy the whole occasion. Hopefully it will be the Blue & Amber ribbons on the famous trophy at 4pm tomorrow afternoon. See you there...and have a great one.
Last one out of Leeds, please turn off the lights.