England rivals battle it out

Danny McGuire and Sam Tomkins are not only rivals for an England spot this season – they are also challenging for a place in the semi-finals of the Carnegie Challenge Cup.

The two stand-offs come face-to-face in a blockbusting quarter-final at Headingley Carnegie on Saturday (2.30pm).

And it’s a confrontation neither McGuire or Tomkins would have chosen.

McGuire, 27, said:”Wigan are the form team of Super League this season but if we are to win the competition you have to beat the best at some stage.

“At least we are at home and we just have to get on with it.”

Tomkins, 21, agrees: ”Nobody in their right mind would have chosen Leeds away but we’ve had quite a bit of success over there in recent years and will make sure we prepare well.

“Leeds had a disappointing start to the season by their standards but have shown their true colours in recent weeks.

“Good teams don’t suddenly become bad overnight.”

There is plenty of mutual respect between McGuire and Tomkins who were the half-backs in England’s 26-16 defeat by eventual winners Australia in the Four Nations last autumn.

But McGuire was then dropped with Tomkins taking over his Number 6 shirt and Kyle Eastmond brought in at scrum-half.

McGuire says:”The first time I came across Sam was training with England last year and he is an exciting talent with a great head on his shoulders.

“He’s going to be a massive dangerman and we’ll have to keep a close eye on him but Wigan are strong in every department these days with their forwards laying the platform.

“I thought Sam and I started to get it together a bit in the second half against Australia and I still want to play for England.

“I’m the older half-back these days with other youngsters like Richie Myler and Kyle Eastmond on the scene and that competition for places can only be good for Super League and England.”

Tomkins says:”Danny has proved his quality over a number of years and when I was first called up by England last year I could see first hand his ability.

“He plays a similar style to me but I can learn so much from him.”

Wigan, who last won the Cup when they beat St Helens at Murrayfield in 2002, crushed Leeds 24-4 in an Engage Super League clash at the DW Stadium earlier this season.

But history is on Leeds’s side when it comes to Challenge Cup meetings in the Super League era.

The Rhinos beat Wigan 28-18 in the fourth round in 1999 en route to the biggest win in final history – a 52-16 thrashing of London Broncos.

Wigan won 22-18 at Leeds in the fifth round in 2007 but the Rhinos triumphed 23-16 in the 2008 quarter-final before losing to St Helens in the semi.

McGuire played in the last two Cup ties against Wigan but Tomkins was still to burst on the scene.

McGuire added:”I also played in our defeat at Wigan this season but we were a bit out of touch at the time and were struggling with injuries.

“They did a good job on us that night but we took a few positives out of the match and it kick-started our season.

“After that defeat we drew against Bradford and then struck a few wins together.

“Wigan will be striving for cup success again after their record breaking run in the late 80s and early 90s and it’s a trophy that has eluded us too in recent years.

“It should be a cracking match on Saturday.”

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