Leeds Rhinos’ coach Brian McDermott insisted announcing his Tetley’s Challenge Cup final team yesterday is not in any way a sign of confidence.
Clubs often do not confirm their squad to the press until the day of the Wembley showpiece itself in order to guard their tactics.
But, ahead of Saturday’s showdown with Castleford Tigers, McDermott volunteered his full 17 to the waiting media at a joint-press conference in Leeds with Daryl Powell’s side.
“It’s a sign that everybody is fit,” he said. “If you were to ask Daryl what our team’s going to be, he’d say it and I think everybody else in this room knows what it was going to be. There’s no smoke and mirrors. It gives players time to get their heads around it.”
McDermott has retained the squad that defeated Warrington Wolves in the semi-final nine days ago. Prior to Sunday’s shock loss at previously winless London Broncos, when McDermott rested nine players, he maintained he knew his starting line-up and only had his replacements to select.
In fairness, they could have been predicted, too, with the only likely debate being whether Stevie Ward would oust fellow youngster Liam Sutcliffe.
Sutcliffe – who can operate at stand-off, loose forward and even centre – has got the nod so, along with Joel Moon and Paul Aiton, features in his first Challenge Cup final.
McDermott, aiming to lift the trophy at his third attempt in the final with Leeds, seemed unperturbed by the defeat in the capital while Powell, unsurprisingly, opted against naming his squad.
“Everybody does things their own way, don’t they?” he said. “It’s not something I would have done. It’s each to their own. I’m not that interested to be honest; it’s about how us and how we go about our business. We know Leeds are a top-quality side and whoever they put out there, we’ve just got to turn up and play well.”
His main concern is over Craig Huby, the veteran prop who has been in inspirational form but dislocated an elbow in their semi-final victory 10 days ago.
“Rugby league players are tough people,” Powell said.
“If he’s not available we’ve got plenty of people who can take that slot. But he’s obviously a pretty important player for us so I’ll give him as long as he needs.
“We’ll make that decision later on in the week.”
Leeds Rhinos’ Challenge Cup final line-up: Hardaker; Briscoe, Watkins, Moon, Hall; Sinfield, McGuire; Leuluai, Burrow, Peacock, Delaney, Ablett, Jones-Buchanan. Substitutes: Kirke, Bailey, Aiton, Sutcliffe.
Tigers’ Huby fighting to make Challenge Cup final: Page 16.