Challenge Cup Final: England’s loss is Hull FC’s gain as Gareth Ellis aims to be leader of Wembley heroes

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HULL FC captain Gareth Ellis has ruled out a return to the international fold insisting it is because he quit playing for England that he is now in such influential form.

The veteran back-row takes Super League’s leaders into the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup final against Warrington Wolves at Wembley tomorrow keen to complete the first part of a potential treble.

SEE YOU THERE: Hull FC's Gareth Ellis (left) with Warrington Wolves' Chris Hill . Picture: Danny Lawson/PA.

SEE YOU THERE: Hull FC's Gareth Ellis (left) with Warrington Wolves' Chris Hill . Picture: Danny Lawson/PA.

Despite now being 35, he continues to produce consistently stellar performances that have been central to that bid – and have earmarked him as a favourite to win this season’s Man of Steel as Super League’s best player.

There has, then, been a growing clamour for the former Leeds Rhinos star to make himself available for England’s Four Nations campaign this autumn and have one last crack at the Australians and Kiwis.

Ellis retired from international duty at just 32 and only weeks before the 2013 World Cup, having cited his desire to commit fully to Hull.

His first season after a lucrative move from NRL club Wests Tigers had largely been wrecked by injury and, so, the Castleford-born forward – twice rated the world’s best second-row – wanted to concentrate on bringing his best for them.

Hull FC's Gareth Ellis is tackled by Wigan's Ben Flower (left) and Logan Tomkins during the Challenge Cup Final defeat at Wembley back in 2013. Picture: Anna Gowthorpe/PA.

Hull FC's Gareth Ellis is tackled by Wigan's Ben Flower (left) and Logan Tomkins during the Challenge Cup Final defeat at Wembley back in 2013. Picture: Anna Gowthorpe/PA.

However, Ellis, who won 22 England caps and played in 17 Tests for Great Britain, would certainly make the current national side stronger.

Indeed, Wayne Bennett, the Australian who has taken over as coach from Steve McNamara, knows the player’s quality well, having witnessed him on a weekly basis during his fine four-year career in Sydney.

But Ellis said: “I’m pretty much decided on that (not going back).

“I think having had a pre-season over the last couple of years has sort of done me good.

Hull FC's Gareth Ellis (left) with Warrington Wolves' Chris Hill get to know each other and the Challenge CUp ahead of Saturday's final at Wembley.

Hull FC's Gareth Ellis (left) with Warrington Wolves' Chris Hill get to know each other and the Challenge CUp ahead of Saturday's final at Wembley.

“That’s maybe why I’m playing somewhere like where I’d like to be. I think I’d probably jeopardise that by going back into it (international football).

“I look forward to my breaks now. I think it’d be a no. I did it for long enough.”

The news will be welcomed by Hull supporters who have adopted the tireless forward as one of their own. Ellis, who will continue playing until the end of 2017 at least, hopes to reward them with the club’s first win at Wembley tomorrow.

“We’re in better shape than 2013,” he insisted, when Hull lost 16-0 against Wigan Warriors.

“Looking back, we thought we could win it but were probably beaten by the better team and weren’t ever going to win that game without a bit of luck.

“This year, though, we’re on top of our game and couldn’t be playing better given the last couple of matches (44-0 win v Catalans and 38-0 at Widnes).

“Everyone knows we could become heroes – there will only be one group of Hull players to be the be first to finally win at Wembley.”

Hull infamously have failed to succeed in all eight previous trips to the iconic stadium, their three Challenge Cup victories coming in Halifax (1914), Leeds (1982 replay) and Cardiff (2005).

Furthermore, the sport’s oldest competition is the one still missing from Ellis’s CV, having lost with Leeds in 2005 as well as that Wigan defeat three years ago.

“It’s been in the back of my mind about whether I’ll ever win one,” he said.

“However, no-one really says anything, apart from dad. He put his arm around my shoulder and said: ‘Son, it’d be nice to get this one. Tick all the boxes.’

“But we can’t let the occasion get the better of us. I have been guilty of that in the past.

“It stops you from doing things and makes you almost scared to make mistakes. I don’t think we can afford to play like that; we’re at our best when we’re playing rugby league like we can.

“I’ll be trying to get that across to the boys – go out there and do what we do.”

Cup final build-up: Page 25

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