The 2009 Carnegie Challenge Cup is close to reaching a climax with the semi-finals now decided and defending champions St Helens still on course to make it four titles in a row.
This year’s final will mark 80 years since the first Challenge Cup Final to be played at Wembley. In 1929 Wigan defeated Dewsbury 13-2 and since then the Challenge Cup Final has become one of sport’s major events attracting a family audience from all over the UK.
In this year’s first semi-final to be played on Saturday 8 August Wigan Warriors will play Warrington Wolves at the Stobart Stadium, Widnes.
It is Wigan’s second semi-final appearance in the last three years and the Warriors will be hoping to win the competition they once dominated during the late eighties and early nineties for the first time since 2002.
For Warrington it is their first semi-final appearance since 2004, and should they make the final it will be the first time they have appeared at Wembley since 1990.
After defeating engage Super League champions Leeds Rhinos in the fourth round of the competition St Helens have cruised through to their ninth consecutive semi-final and are favourites to retain the trophy they have made their own in recent years.
Standing in their way though are Huddersfield Giants who under new Australian coach Nathan Brown are a much improved side and will fancy their chances of causing an upset. The Giants will also be out for revenge having lost to St Helens in the 2006 Challenge Cup Final at Twickenham.
Saints and Giants will meet on Sunday 9 August at the Halliwell Jones Stadium, Warrington.
Saturday 8 August – Stobart Stadium, Widnes
Warrington Wolves V Wigan Warriors Live on BBC One Kick off 2.30pm
Sunday 9 August – Halliwell Jones Stadium, Warrington
Huddersfield Giants V St Helens Live on BBC Two Kick off 4.00pm
To reserve tickets for either the semi-finals or the Wembley final please call 0871 226 13 13 or visit www.rugbyleaguetickets.co.uk
The Saints have won this competition for the last three years and are currently top of the engage Super League.
Mick Potter, who led French side Catalans Dragons to the 2007 cup final at Wembley, is now in charge of St Helens after previous coach Daniel Anderson returned to Australia to coach Paramatta Eels.
Star players: James Graham, Sean Long, Tony Puletua
Coach: Mick Potter
The Giants are the most improved side in engage Super League this season and have turned over many of the top sides. Australian captain Brett Hodgson has done much to propel Huddersfield up the table and in England internationals Eorl Crabtree and Scott Moore, Nathan Brown’s has one of the strongest packs around at his disposal.
Star players: Scott Moore, Stephen Wild, Paul Whatuira
Coach: Nathan Brown
Wigan are arguably the most famous name in World Rugby League mainly due to their dominance of the Challenge Cup which they won on eight successive occasions between 1988 and 1995.
In their side they boast a World Cup winner in Thomas Leuluai and England internationals Sean O’Loughlin and Gareth Hock. They also boast two of the games’ most exciting talents in Shaun Ainscough and Sam Tomkins.
Star Players: Par Richards, Martin Gleeson, Sean O’Loughlin
Coach: Brian Noble
Warrington’s results have improved dramatically this season following the appointment of England Coach Tony Smith as Director of Rugby and they have thoroughly deserved their semi-final place.
They secured their semi-final berth following a breathtaking quarter-final tie which went to golden point in front of the BBC cameras. A Lee Briers drop goal six minutes into golden point gave Warrington a 25-24 victory.
Star players: Adrian Morley, Mickey Higham, Michael Monaghan
Coach: Brian Noble