HULL FC coach Lee Radford has put faith in two young Australian half-backs to steer his side towards potentially redeeming themselves after last year’s painful Challenge Cup final disaster.
They host Salford Red Devils in the fourth round this evening, just six days after beating the same opponents 30-8 in Super League at the KC Stadium.
However, Hull have lost veteran stand-off Richard Horne to injury from that side meaning Jordan Rankin, the 22-year-old who has shown only flashes since signing from Gold Coast Titans, is recalled.
He is paired with Jacob Miller, the 21-year-old who played in the abject Challenge Cup final defeat to Wigan last August but was only picked for the first time this season by Radford last week.
He scored a try against Salford then and showed up well so Radford is encouraged.
“Rich (Horne) has a grade one tear of his hamstring and fingers crossed he’ll just be out this week,” he said.
“He’s arguably been our best half-back throughout the season and has been getting us around the field astutely so we need him back as soon as we can.
“Jordan Rankin comes in as a straight replacement alongside Jacob, so we’ll have two young halves. They get their chance, which is pleasing for them both and we are hoping they take their opportunity. It’s a big test for a young partnership. They’re both energetic kids still learning their trade and the intricacies of playing that position.”
Radford hopes to see Ben Crooks passed fit, too, despite Super League’s Young Player of the Year not being named in the 19-man squad after picking up a knock last Friday.
Joe Arundel waits in the wings if not and, crucially, as Hull prepare for a backlash from big-spending Salford, the Black and Whites can also recall first-choice props Garreth Carvell and Mickey Paea from injury and suspension respectively.
Radford added: “We’ll need to be better this week.
“Friday was a game on paper Salford feel they should have won, there is pressure internally from the man above them (owner Marwan Koukash) and they’ve some things going on in the background with regards the coaching set-up.
“Gareth Hock is back too so there will be a response.”
Radford added: “We left Wembley Stadium empty last year. We showed some unbelievable efforts leading up to the final and then to not deliver on the big stage was heartbreaking and that never got fixed at the back end of last year.
“But that’s last year’s squad, last year’s coaching staff and this year is different. The cup is big for this club and this is a massive fixture for the club.
“But we are not looking any further than Salford; we need a solid performance and some special efforts to bring the result home.”
For all the hyperbole surrounding them this season, Salford have lost four of their seven matches so far and sit ninth in the table.
Coach Brian Noble’s job is not thought to be under threat but Koukash has confirmed that Iestyn Harris – the former Leeds Rhinos and Bradford Bulls star who worked with Noble at Odsal and is now assisting at Wigan Warriors – plus former Cronulla Sharks head coach Shane Flanagan, currently suspended following an investigation into the NRL club’s supplements programme, are potential additions to the club’s coaching team.
Hull KR have extended the loan signing of St Helens winger Ade Gardner until the end of the season.
“Ade has been terrific for us while he’s been here,” said coach Craig Sandercock.