Brett Hodgson focused on the task at hand as Hull FC aim to overcome St Helens in Challenge Cup semi-final

ONE OF sport’s most over-used cliches says form and past history is irrelevant in Cup ties and Hull coach Brett Hodgson is sticking by that today.

WEMBLEY AIMS: For Hull FC coach Brett Hodgson. Picture: Allan McKenzie\SWpix.com.

Facing a team who have lost just once this season and beat them comprehensively, 34-16, just eight days ago, Hull will go into their Challenge Cup semi-final against St Helens at Leigh as underdogs.

Recent history, on the other hand, favours the Black and Whites.

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While their Wembley wins in 2016 and 2017 remain fresh in the memory, the Cup is becoming a monkey on the back of Saints, who haven’t lifted the trophy since beating Hull 13 years ago.

INJURY BLOW: For Hull FC's Joe Cator. Picture: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com.

The sides’ respective recent Cup records might have a psychological bearing if the game goes to the wire, but as far as Hodgson is concerned, the only thing that really matters is playing well on the day.

“The history of the Challenge Cup is important to us,” said the Australian who is in his first season in charge of Hull.

“We have had some success in recent years and want to get there again, but ultimately it is about an 80-minute game on the weekend.

“We can use that to inspire us, but we are really looking forward to going out there and playing to our potential.”

RETURN: Tommy Makinson of St Helens has recovered from injury in time to face Hull FC. Picture: Ash Allen/SWpix.com

Hodgson stressed Saints’ barren run in the competition has not been mentioned during this week’s preparations.

“We haven’t spoken about St Helens, the only time they’ve come into our thought process is how we reflected on last weekend’s game,” he said

“We need to be at our best to give ourselves a chance.”

Specialist wingmen Regan Grace and Tom Makinson are both expected to return for Saints, with last week’s hat-trick hero Jack Welsby switching to centre in the absence of Mark Percival.

Hodgson stressed he is pleased to see Grace and Makinson back in contention, despite the added threat they will pose.

“It’s good,” he insisted.

“I think it’s good for the game and it’s also good that we need to be at our best against their best team. That’s important, what we don’t want to do is go into these games thinking they are under-strength.

“The fact Grace and Makinson are back makes them a stronger team, absolutely, but we still have the confidence and trust in our system that we can defend [against them], if we are investing the right attitude and energy into what we are doing.

“I am confident we will do that. We didn’t really play to what our strengths were [last week], too often we were coming off our own line.

“That’s always hard against St Helens, we need to be better in certain areas of the game to come up with a performance this week and that’s what we have spoken about and want to achieve.”

Hodgson stressed his players are “investing in how to get better”, something he feels they struggled with earlier in the campaign.

“It is difficult, in the heat of the battle, to turn that momentum when you’re not starting the right way,” he admitted.

“That’s something we have to improve this weekend, but the players are investing a lot of energy and their attitude is great in terms of trying to improve every single week.

“That’s what we’ve asked of them and I am really happy in that part of the game. We just need to make sure we perform to our ability.”

As a player, Hodgson lost the 2009 final with Huddersfield Giants before winning the trophy with Warrington Wolves in 2012.

“We’ve spoken about what it means to the club, the supporters of our club and the city,” he added. “It’s such a huge occasion and if you’re good enough to be there at the end, the whole city gets behind us and we’re looking forward to being in that position to do that.

“Ultimately, we have to make sure we’re performing at our best to give ourselves a chance.

“It’s obviously huge. Silverware is what you do the job for, it’s what the players want to play for obviously and hopefully we get that chance and we can speak about that after this weekend.

“I even loved playing at Wembley for Huddersfield when we were beaten by Warrington in 2009. The experience of going to Wembley was just amazing.

“It’s such an iconic stadium and an iconic competition and the excitement during the week leading into it is something that I hold dear in my memories as a player.

“Hopefully we can progress after this weekend and make some memories as a group.”

Andre Savelio is set to return to Hull’s second-row after recovering from a hamstring injury. Jordan Lane is likely to take over at loose-forward from Joe Cator, who is out with a calf problem.

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