Two time cup winner Robbie Paul has hailed this year’s Carnegie Challenge Cup as the most open in recent years and says that any one of the 14 Engage Super League clubs should fancy their chances of reaching the Wembley final.
Paul, who in 1996 became the first player to score a hat-trick in a cup final, has been impressed by how competitive Engage Super League XV has been and believes this will be reflected in this year’s cup competition.
“I don’t think anyone really starts as favourites although the bookies will probably fancy Wigan to do well because of their league form. But when it comes to the cup league form goes out of the window, just look what happened last year.
“Warrington finished Super League in tenth in 2009 yet Tony Smith managed to inspire his Wolves side to their first piece of silverware for 35 years.
“The key to it all is that you only need to win five games to go to Wembley and lift the trophy. That’s why this year absolutely anyone can win it. All 14 Super League clubs can raise their game on their day and put together a cup run so who knows who will be at Wembley come August.”
According to Paul, who played in six cup finals for Bradford Bulls and Huddersfield Giants, one team each year reaches Wembley the hard way and on the evidence of this year’s fourth round draw he believes either Hull FC or Leeds Rhinos could be candidates.
The two meet each other on Saturday afternoon, in a tie that will be televised on BBC One, kick off 2.30pm.
Paul said: “There is always one team who end up playing Super League opponents all the way through or faces a tricky tie against a Championship team and this year it could be Hull or Leeds Rhinos who are that team.
“In my opinion Hull do not have a side at the moment that can win every single Super League game but they certainly do have the players who can raise their game for the big occasion and propel the club to a second cup final in three years.
“Leeds will be even more determined than ever to get to Wembley this year but again the luck of the draw has not been kind to them.
“They may have won three Super League titles in a row but after not winning the cup since 1999 Brian McClennan’s men will be eager to become true history makers by adding a Wembley victory to their achievements.”
“Barrow have a number of players with Super League experience such as Jamie Rooney and Ned Catic and have nothing to lose this weekend against Castleford who are struggling for form in Super League,” said Paul.
“Last year Halifax took the Tigers to a golden point at The Jungle and I expect it to be just as close again this Sunday,” he added.
Paul said: “I don’t know much about them but I expect it to be a really hard game, it always is against the French on their home patch.
“If we beat them then I’d love to draw a big Super League side at home. We’re in good form at the moment and at home in front of a big crowd at Leigh Sports Village who knows what might happen.”