Hull FC have saved their best stuff for the Challenge Cup, with what the club did at Wembley in both 2016 and 2017 still fresh in the memory.
Though with the first Easter like weekend since the record breaking Derby win and St Helens away last season lying ahead, you could say success in this years competition is a tall order (especially with Wigan awaiting the winner), but Sunday’s opponents Castleford will be feeling the same level of fatigue having also played on Thursday night.
Hull have the luxury of making the most changes having rotated their squad against Wakefield, whereas Castleford had a gruelling battle with Warrington, and that could play a part. It’s knockout rugby league too, which brings with it a different mindset, and Hull have excelled more than most under this scenario in recent years. It needs no introduction.
Castleford are struggling too. They are the only team Hull are still to face this year and they also haven’t been great since the restart. Their coach Daryl Powell has even admitted he’s nervous when he watches them. Jose like mind games or Liam Watts aside they’re a bit pants? Who knows…. One things for sure though we miss Big Judd. He’s some player, as is the little hooker Paul McShane. They’re no mugs over there.
However, Hull should be relatively upbeat going into this one. The Airlie Birds have recently had the measure over Castleford in the cup. Obviously the great semi-final battles of the 1980s come to mind but also the past four ties have gone Hull’s way, even when against the side that reinvented the wheel in 2017. What a day that was.
Andy Last’s side should have more energy about them. They will be fresher, there’s no doubt about that, and these senior players coming in owe a performance. A lot of onus as always will be on the two metre eating centres Carlos Tuimavave and Josh Griffin to get Hull on the front foot, with Manu Ma’u and Ligi Sao returning to the pack alongside Gareth Ellis. New hooker Jordan Johnstone is fit to steer Hull around the field and if all that clicks together like it promised to do on that magnificent opening night that now seems a lifetime ago, then we are in for a treat.
Dare we say some confidence is creeping in here. There is something magical about the cup, it’s completely different to the week in week out grind that is Super League, offers some respite, and it can produce something special. Hull are capable of producing that, they’ve always been capable, but action has been hard to put into place recently. As we all know though form is temporary and class is permanent. Whilst question marks remain on some individuals capability, there is enough class amongst this squad to get a result. Come on you Ull.
Hull have made eight changes with Jamie Shaul, Carlos Tuimavave, Josh Griffin, Manu Ma’u, Ligi Sao, Jordan Johnstone, Gareth Ellis and Ratu Naulago all returning.
Masimbaashe Matongo, Josh Bowden, Connor Wynne, Lewis Bienek, Cameron Scott, Charlie Patterson-Lund, Ben McNamara and Jude Ferreira all drop out.
Castleford have made three changes. Sosaia Feki, Jake Trueman and Cheyse Blair come in.
Hull: 1. Jamie Shaul, 2. Bureta Faraimo, 3. Carlos Tuimavave, 4. Josh Griffin, 5. Adam Swift, 6. Jake Connor, 9. Danny Houghton, 10. Chris Satae, 12. Manu Ma’u, 13. Ligi Sao, 14. Albert Kelly, 15. Joe Cator, 16. Jordan Johnstone, 20. Brad Fash, 21. Jordan Lane, 23. Andre Savelio, 24. Mahe Fonua, 26. Kieran Buchanan, 29. Gareth Ellis, 30. Jack Brown, 33. Ratu Naulago.
Castleford: 2. Derrell Olpherts, 3. Peter Mata’utia, 4. Michael Shenton, 5. Sosaia Feki, 6. Jake Trueman, 7. Danny Richardson, 8. Liam Watts, 9. Paul McShane, 10. Grant Millington, 11. Oliver Holmes, 12. Mike McMeeken, 13. Adam Milner, 14. Nathan Massey, 16. George Griffin, 18. Cheyse Blair, 21. James Clare, 22. Jacques O’Neill, 24. Tyla Hepi, 25. Greg Eden, 26. Calum Turner, 27. Lewis Peachey.
Last Five Challenge Cup Meetings
2019: Hull 28 Castleford 12
2017: Hull 38 Castleford 24
2015: Hull 40 Castleford 14
2004: Hull 26 Castleford 0
1999: Castleford 36 Hull 22
Challenge Cup Head to Head
Played 15 – Hull wins 8, Castleford wins 5, draws 2
Hull by two points.