LEEDS RHINOS elusive centre Kallum Watkins is adamant underdogs Castleford Tigers will deal with the pressure of today’s Tetley’s Challenge Cup final.
Although the England international is still only 23, he will play in his third Wembley showpiece this afternoon with most of his team-mates having similar experience.
Fully 14 players in the Castleford ranks though have yet to taste such an occasion leaving question marks about their ability to handle the magnitude of the event.
“Our experience could possibly count for more but I personally think Cas will be up for it and take it with both hands,” said Watkins, at yesterday’s traditional Wembley Walkabout.
“They’ll give it their best and we need to match that with the experience we’ve got.
“Everyone is calm and relaxed now. We’ve had a good session but we know come game time we have got to deliver great performance to win against an excellent Castleford side.”
Leeds drew with Castleford just last month and, as Kevin Sinfield practiced drop goals on the Wembley pitch yesterday, Watkins conceded it could be another tight encounter.
“It might come to that (drop goal),” he said.
“It could certainly be close if both teams are on form and playing to their full potential as in terms of league form it’s quite equal. We’re level on points.”
Of course, though Watkins is a Super League Grand Final and World Club Challenge winner from 2012, he has yet to taste Challenge Cup glory given Leeds’s well-documented misery in finals in this competition.
“We’ve been here before and not managed to get the result but that’s happened now and we can move on,” he insisted.
“We’re here again and we have another chance of winning. That’s important for us.
“Every time I’ve come here I get that ‘wow’ feeling. It’s a special arena and something a lot of people dream about performing in.
“It’s another dream come true for me to play here again.”
Watkins is expecting a fierce battle with Michael Shenton, the Castleford captain who is in the form of his life and looking to reclaim an England jersey this autumn.
“He’s a real difficult opponent,” said Watkins, who has scored 12 tries himself this term.
“In the last game we played he played really well and he’s come into real good form and earned his spot in the England squad which he deserves.
“He’s been fantastic this year for Cas.
“He’s getting helped a lot by the players around him as they are playing well too and that will give him even more confidence.”