Hull. Wigan. The Challenge Cup. This one needs no introduction and it’s all set up to be an absolute belter.
Last week’s Super League encounter leaves Saturday’s tie perfectly poised too. It was a brutal game, with defences on top in a tough battle which Wigan edged 16-14. It was fiery to say the least, certainly not for the faint hearted, and there’s definitely unfinished business and a score or two to be settled.
Andre Savelio will be feeling that more than most, but being the professional and likeable bloke that he is, he’ll let his rugby do the talking. Racist dickheads in the “heat of the moment” are banned for this one, and we’re left with two groups of players that we all know will give absolutely everything in what promises to be a belting cup tie.
Both teams have players out through injury or suspension that would have added to the occasion, but it’s Hull who have felt that force more. They’ve been shafted by the disciplinary department this week too with both Jake Connor and Brad Fash banned – Connor for a high shot which already went punished with a sin bin at the time and Fash for, well yeah.. answers on a postcard please.
Therefore head coach Brett Hodgson, along with his assistants Gareth Ellis and co, who so far have revolutionised Hull’s defence, attitude, and mentality this year, have had to recall Connor Wynne from his loan spell at York, but there are timely boosters too with Manu Ma’u and Josh Reynolds coming back into the side.
Reynolds’ return is MASSIVE. He brought an unrivalled energy to the Hull side in his first two games and he brought everyone else along the ride. His enthusiasm and quality speak for itself and his presence alone can only help Marc Sneyd too. Connor suspended is obviously a huge blow in that attacking arsenal, but Reynolds back gives Hull a shot. Wynne is no slouch either and comes into the team with a point to prove to earn a new deal.
Injuries have bit for Hull in the same position, and there’s no getting away from the fact that they are light in the forwards against what will be a tough Wigan pack as always, but there won’t be any blokes going into their shells here. Last week will only motivate them further and Hull have already shown plenty of resilience this year when the going gets tough. They will create a siege mentality, but they’ll have to get even more from their in-form forwards too; players like Chris Satae, Ligi Sao, Joe Cator, Jordan Lane et al. Quality isn’t an issue.
Hull are underdogs, and most will fancy Wigan, but don’t write this one off. Mentality. It can’t be emphasised enough and all the early indications suggest that this Hull side will fight to the end at whatever cost. Expect fireworks.
Class is permanent
A lot of focus has been on racist Tony Clubb and the absolute cop out of a punishment that the RFL handed the Wigan prop this week, but not a lot has been said about the character of Hull back rower Andre Savelio.
Savelio had the courage to speak up which should be commended in itself, and he also played on completing the eighty minutes as he has done all season in a professional manner despite Clubb taking a racist swipe at his ethnical background.
All the statements were quick to mention Clubb’s character, how nice of a bloke he normally is, you know the usual mantra when a player enters dickhead territory… BUT not enough was made of Savelio and his conduct throughout all of this.
We should all be proud that Savelio is a Hull player – his performances on the field have been outstanding, but there’s a top person in there too. Credit to him.
Tackle it, and taking the knee
The RFL like many sporting organisations last weekend boycotted social media in a stance against racial and discriminatory abuse. They’ve also been shouting about their ‘Tackle It’ campaign since last Autumn which combats the two, not to mention advocating the thirteen second ‘take the knee’ stance before every rugby league fixture since the sport resumed after lockdown last August.
What was it all for? Talk about empty gestures. Clearly it’s box ticking for them and nothing more. The wording in the statements was very slyly put together by the governing body and basically translates to “Tony Clubb did take a racial slur at Andre Savelio but he plays for Wigan so we’ll just give him a slap on the wrist and try sweep it under the carpet.”
Good luck with that, and Hull should take a stand against them.
Come out and Saturday and line straight up for kick off. Bollocks to the lot of it.
Hull: 3. Carlos Tuimavave, 4. Josh Griffin, 5. Mahe Fonua, 6. Josh Reynolds, 7. Marc Sneyd, 9. Danny Houghton, 10. Chris Satae, 11. Andre Savelio, 12. Manu Ma’u, 13. Ligi Sao, 14. Jordan Johnstone, 15. Joe Cator, 16. Jordan Lane, 19. Ben McNamara, 20. Jack Brown, 21. Adam Swift, 23. Connor Wynne, 24. Cameron Scott, 26. Jude Ferreira, 27. Mitieli Vulijikipani, 28. Harvey Barron.
Wigan: 1. Bevan French, 2. Dom Manfredi, 3. Zak Hardaker, 8. Brad Singleton, 9. Sam Powell, 10. Joe Bullock, 11. Willie Isa, 12. Liam Farrell, 13. John Bateman, 14. Oliver Partington, 15. Morgan Smithies, 19. Liam Byrne, 20. Harry Smith, 21. Ethan Havard, 22. Jake Bibby, 23. Mitch Clark, 25. Joe Shorrocks, 28. Sam Halsall, 29. James McDonnell, 30. Umyla Hanley, 31. Jackson Hastings.
Scott Taylor is out with a broken foot and joins Josh Bowden (elbow) on the sidelines.
Long term absentees Jamie Shaul and Masimbaashe Matongo are still recovering from their knee injuries.
Jake Connor, Bureta Faraimo, and Brad Fash are suspended.
Wigan are without Oliver Gildart, Liam Marshall, Jai Field, and Thomas Leuluai.
Last Five Challenge Cup Meetings
2020: Hull 4 Wigan 36 (at Salford)
2017: Hull 18 Wigan 14 (at Wembley)
2016: Hull 16 Wigan 12 (at Doncaster)
2013: Hull 0 Wigan 16 (at Wembley)
2002: Wigan 34 Hull 10
Challenge Cup Head to Head
Played 17 – Hull wins 6 – Wigan wins 11
Hull by two points. Bring it on.