St Helens prop Matty Lees is facing a race against time in his bid to avoid the heartbreak of missing out on a second Challenge Cup final in three years.
The 23-year-old has not played since breaking an ankle in Saints’ opening-round win over Leeds in April which coach Kristian Woolf said would sideline him for 10 to 11 weeks.
The Wembley showdown with Castleford is now under five weeks away but Woolf hopes the player can get at least one Super League game under his belt before the final.
Lees was in St Helens’ victorious Grand Final team last November but was forced to sit out the Challenge Cup final against Warrington in 2019 with a serious abdominal injury, which also ruled him out of contention for the Great Britain tour to New Zealand that year.
“He missed out on a number of big things in 2019 and got the opportunity to make a little bit of amends at the end of last year,” Woolf said.
“Like every player, he wants to be in the big games and he’s certainly a player we want for those big games.
“I’d hope and expect he’s going to be back in time and hopefully he’ll get a game or two before that under his belt so he can have some confidence and be ready to go for Wembley.”
The champions will definitely be without second-rower James Bentley for the final as he continues his recovery from a broken leg but Woolf confirmed centre Mark Percival will be back in time from a hamstring injury which will rule him of England’s mid-season game against the Combined Nations All Stars on June 25.
Woolf says prop Agnatius Paasi, who missed Saints’ cup semi-final win over Hull with a minor hamstring tear, will return for Thursday’s Super League derby with Warrington at the Totally Wicked Stadium.
St Helens’ scheduled league game against Leeds last Friday was postponed due to a Covid-19 outbreak among their opponents.