Tony Smith has added Ian Kirke, and last weeks dropped players Lee Smith and Mark O'Neill to the seventeen that lost narrowly to the Saints last weekend. Danny McGuire was named in the twenty but with a shin injury looking like it may require some rest I'd expect him to be one who will drop out when the eighteen are named. I'd like to see Ian Kirke get a deserved run and expect that Jordan Tansey may be the other missing from the last eighteen names with Kirke or Gibson missing out on final selection. Though that said, I've been very wrong on several occasions so far this year.
New signing Jamie Thackray is cup-tied, while Clinton Toopi will not arrive in time to figure in Tony Smiths plans. Expect both of these two to make a debut away at Hull FC next friday evening.
The Giants, who will play in their all-white away strip, should not be underestimated as they have several players who have 'been there and done that!'. Robbie Paul has been a thorne in our side on more than one occasion and Keith Mason has tasted Challenge Cup victory with Saints. Michael De Vere has also performed on the worlds biggest RL stages in his career in the ARL. There is also an ex-Rhino in Wayne McDonald who always have a point to prove in regard to the shoddy way that he was shown the door at Headingley.
The Rhinos last lost to the Giants on the 12th July 2003 and have gone six games unbeaten since then. There have been two meetings already this season with the Rhinos winning 20-12 at Headingley and 36-14 earlier this month at the Galpharm.
Three experienced Giants to watch;
Despite feeling like our Challenge Cup hearts get broken every season, we actually have a reasonable record in semi-finals. This will be our eighth semi-final in the last ten seasons (missing out in 1998 and 2004), and of the seven already played we have won four (against Bradford, Hull FC, Saints and Toulouse). Of those four we have, of course, only gone on once to pick up the silverware...a record that we need to put right this season.
If we do make it through to the final, and I am reasonable confident that we will, then we will most likely have to face Saints, the side who have knocked up out of the cup on three occasions in the last five years.
It is unlikely to be a full-house at Odsal and I'd expect a turnout of around 15,000. Huddersfield have been giving this game a massive build-up so expect two to three thousand of their fans to make the short journey from the birthplace of the game. Most tickets are now sold for the stand, but those of you who know Odsal will know that leaves plenty of space for those of us who will pay on the gate.
The bookies have given the Giants a twelve point start on the coupon, and they are rarely far from being correct. Without handicaps the Rhinos are 2/11 with the Giants being available at 4/1. First try scorer is more appealing with last weeks foirst scorer Gareth Ellis at 16/1 to repeat the feat.
The forecast for sunday is for a bit of rain and much reduced temperatures around 21 degrees. The lads will be pleased of that, even if we aren't stood on the terraces.
Enjoy the game, and fingers crossed that the bookies have got it right.