Gentle prepares for Crusaders’ challenge

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Hull FC coach Peter Gentle believes it is time to re-discover the magic of the Challenge Cup.

Like many Australians, he is an avid fan of the famous knockout competition having regularly watched the Wembley final back in Sydney in the early hours of the morning.

But, ahead of tomorrow’s fourth round visit from Championship One part-timers North Wales Crusaders, Gentle is concerned it has lost some lustre.

“Last year it was all very new to me and we were not in very good shape after Easter,” he recalled, depleted Hull being knocked out immediately at home by Huddersfield Giants.

“This year we are in a much better place.

“The Cup used to be very popular back home, just as it used to be very popular over here too.

“I think it has been watered down a little bit in the last few years and it needs to take precedence again.

“It is a separate competition to Super League, but it is unique to rugby league in this country and there is nothing like it in the NRL.

“The fact it is a knockout competition makes it exciting. The fans enjoy it and we do too.

“The fact it doesn’t matter where you are sitting on the ladder is great, each round is a fresh start for everyone and all the teams are equal.

“The cup is a priority this week and my team selection will show that.”

Gentle, indeed, has resisted any temptation to rest any of his players for the visit of Clive Griffiths’s side who have won their first six matches of the season.

“There are a few guys I cannot afford to risk who have knocks, but nobody is rested and this game is win at all costs, that’s what makes the cup so great,” he added.

“It sends a bad message resting your players in the cup.

“We respect anyone who pulls the jumper on and we’ll be doing that this weekend.

“We have prepared all week like we would for a Super League side and I won’t be compromising ourselves.”

England centre Kirk Yeaman and prop Paul Johnson return from injury but Richard Whiting is out after picking up a dead leg last week while England winger Tom Briscoe is given another week to recover from his own injury.

Full-back Shannon McDonnell (face) is also out so Jamie Shaul comes in while prop Mark O’Meley (groin/elbow) is missing, but Gentle expects them all to be fit for the visit of league leaders Wigan Warriors in a week’s time.

Meanwhile, the coach “isn’t sure” if Hull will find a replacement for Brett Seymour this year, the Australian contract released earlier this week, and a loan deal may be their only option.