Challenge Cup Final Preview with Lee Radford

Hull coach Lee Radford is preparing to lead out his team at Wembley for the second successive year.

But does it only start to feel real during Wembley week for the man who guided his hometown club to their first ever Wembley victory last year?

“No I think the semi-final is probably the reality check, that’s when, there’s so much excitement leading into the fixture.

“You’re trying to put it on the back-burner, with so many important fixtures coming up as well.

“But it’s like an elephant in a room, last Friday, the 17 players that took the field knew this game was coming.

“You try to say attack this game 100%, but you’re worried about picking a knock up because you don’t want to miss the opportunity to walk out at Wembley stadium.

“That’s human nature, I’ve done it myself as a player, and that’s what happened on Friday, and that’s disappointing, but it is what it is.”

With not too much to choose between the two sides, the bookies have been fighting over who will carry the underdogs tag and you can visit FanBet for sports betting offers and the latest odds.

Jamie Shaul will become the first Hull player ever to score in every round of the Challenge Cup if he scores at Wembley, but would he brag if he does?

“He’d remind everybody slyly, he’d put some digs in that would let people know.

“He’s not the sort to shout it from the rooftops, but yeah in his own little way, he would let people know.”

In 2013 Hull let themselves down against Wigan at Wembley, are they better prepared after last year?

“Yeah, I think playing Wigan or anyone the experience will help. It’s in our own preparation.

“That’s something I’ve spoken about this week, to make sure we don’t play the game over in our minds a thousand times, because it can drive you nuts by the time the game kicks off.

“You can be knackered because of the stress you’ve put yourself through, so I think we’ll be better for it this time round.”

Having a fully-fit squad at this stage of any season is a big luxury for a coach, the conditioning staff must deserve huge credit?

“Yeah definitely, and a huge shout in general to my assistant Andy Last, he gets very little plaudits because he’s stuck in the background, but his contribution throughout my time at the club has been phenomenal.

“He’s been the shoulder to cry on, he’s given his opinion, and the players respond to what he says, when he says it, he needs a pat on the back as well.”

The next subject for this engaging man is the wins already gained over Wigan this year, do they make any difference?

“No, and I think particularly the last game, their one to 17, their one to 13, they had so many players missing, the team that turns out on Saturday will be almost unrecognisable.

“It’s no coincidence their run of form has got better when their players have started to filter back into the squad, so I’m very aware of their strengths, where we need to be strong on Saturday.

Who does he see as the biggest threat from his friend Shaun Wane’s team?

“George Williams is a very real threat for them, he has the best short kicking game in the competition

“You look at the percentages of the tries they score off kicks on the ground, it’s phenomenal.

“Our defensive area is going to have to be really strong, I don’t know if you can hang your hat on him kicking, he’s an unbelievable running threat as well, so he’s a very talented boy.”

Having identified the Wigan stand-off as the main threat to his side, what does his opposite number Albert Kelly bring to the party?

“He brings you something, from nothing, he can disappear out of a game for 20 minutes, you’re wondering where he is, and then in the blink of an eye he’s scored a hat-trick, and that’s Albert Kelly, that’s his X factor.

“But as well, he’s done that on the big stage, and I’m hoping the stage is set for him come Saturday.”

How is preparation going for new boys Josh Griffin and Jake Connor, who will be experiencing Wembley for the first time?

“With Griff, it’s his first major final, the semi was his first semi-final, so yeah, you can only work from your own experiences, you’re the only one in control of your feelings, so hopefully he’ll enjoy it and have a successful cup celebration as well.

“Jake played in a semi-final in knock-out footy for Huddersfield, but he’s still only a young player, and hopefully it’s one of many finals he’ll participate in.”

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