Sia Soliola says last year’s injury nightmare gave him a new perspective on his career – and guarantees he will give his all for St Helens when they meet Wigan in Saturday’s Carnegie Challenge Cup semi-final at the Halliwell Jones Stadium, Warrington (4.30pm).
Soliola arrived at St Helens for the start of the 2010 season, only to suffer ankle and knee injuries that forced him to miss most the campaign. Now back to full fitness and playing a pivotal role for Saints, the former Sydney Roosters star is counting down the days until Saturday’s showpiece.
“Especially after missing last year, I’m pretty pumped for this one,” he said. “It’s one of those things where you look at Rugby League and you know how quickly you could be sidelined, so you’ve got to take your chances while they’re there.”
Already an established New Zealand international, Soliola is now hoping for a belated present just two days after his birthday. Soliola celebrates his 25th birthday on Thursday, and hopes to cap a happy week with a win against St Helens‘ old enemy.
“I started watching the Challenge Cup as a few of my mates came over to the UK,” said Soliola. “I saw a few of the Challenge Cup games during St Helens‘ run of 2006 to 2008, and the environment and atmosphere looked crazy. You could see how it much it meant to the fans as well as the players.
“As you play each Challenge Cup game you know there’s nothing else, and that you’ve got to put all your eggs in one basket and just go.
“It would be nice to get to Wembley, but that’s not in our thoughts at the moment. We can’t take the focus away from Wigan because they’re going to be a tough task and we’ve got to really concentrate this week.”
“Wigan do all the little things right,” said Soliola. “Their halves and their back five are strong, George Carmont and Pat Richards have a great combination, and then there’s Sam Tomkins out the back.
“On top of all that, their forwards have been doing their thing. They’ve got good direction, but if we can stop their momentum then we’ve got a chance. Their pack’s effectiveness frees up the space for Richards and Tomkins, but if we can do our jobs as forwards, apply ourselves and come with the right attitude, then we’ll be sweet.
“In these big games we’ve got to come prepared. If you’re not ready for these games, then you’ll miss the boat. For us, that started straight after last week’s game against Castleford.”
Wigan Warriors and St Helens renew their rivalry at the Halliwell Jones Stadium in Warrington on Saturday, August 6 (4.30pm kick-off). Tickets for the semi-finals are priced at £28, £22 and £20 (£14, £11 and £10 concessions) and are available for purchase from the competing clubs ticket offices or from the RFL ticket office on 0844 856 1113 or visit www.rugbyleaguetickets.co.uk
Tickets for the 2011 Carnegie Challenge Cup final at Wembley Stadium on Saturday August 27 cost from £21 to £76 and are selling fast. Last year’s final was a sell-out and fans are advised to move quickly to secure their seat at the historic showpiece final. To book tickets call 0844 856 1113 or visit www.rugbyleaguetickets.co.uk
For more information about the Carnegie Challenge Cup visit www.carnegiechallengecup.co.uk