Gentle by name but hard line by nature as Hull given ultimatum
HULL FC coach Peter Gentle has told players whose fitness is in doubt that if they do not train today they will not play at Wembley.
The Airlie Birds have a number of injury concerns surrounding a raft of key players ahead of Saturday’s Tetley’s Challenge Cup final.
Gentle has previously said he would give the likes of prolific winger Tom Lineham and veteran utility Richard Horne as long as possible to stake their claims for a place in the showpiece against Wigan Warriors.
However, the Australian has since decided that uncertainty over selections could cause unnecessary pressure for his squad who are already rated underdogs.
Instead, he will tell his players after training this afternoon who has made the cut for what will be the biggest game of their lives for many of them. Centres Kirk Yeaman (ankle) and Joe Arundel (finger) plus England second-row Danny Tickle (dead leg) all came off injured during Friday’s 18-13 win over Salford City Reds, but should be okay.
Nevertheless, there will be some huge calls for 47-year-old Gentle to make regarding both Lineham and Horne.
“It’s going to be tough because some guys are going to miss out through injury and others through form,” Gentle told the Yorkshire Post.
“Yet, on the other hand, some guys will be really elated getting the call-up.
“We only got probably three-quarters of our squad on the field (yesterday) and I’ve got to make a call early in the week.
“I’m not going to let it drag on and give everyone else until the 11th hour to prove themself.
“We’ve spoken about not being selfish with this; we’re a squad and if you’re not going to be right you’re not going to be playing.
“If anyone is playing they will be on the field (this afternoon). If they’re not on that field they won’t be considered.”
Gentle added: “They’ll be told (the line-up today) and I don’t think there’ll be too many exceptions there.
“We can’t afford to be hanging off and waiting on someone who may or may not be playing.
“We’ll settle on our combinations on Tuesday and work through the rest of the week with them.”
This is where Gentle has some significant decisions to ponder.
Strong-running Lineham has not played since injuring his ankle in the derby at Hull KR 10 days ago when he left MS3 Craven Park on crutches.
However, with his 20-try centre partner Ben Crooks and dynamic full-back Shannon McDonnell already ruled out, Hull really needed his firepower and broken-field running ability.
Jason Crookes was Lineham’s replacement against Salford but has largely been overlooked since April and has struggled to make an impact since joining Bradford Bulls. He is fully fit, though, and eager to prove a point.
Scrum-half Horne, meanwhile, has not featured since injuring his foot at Magic Weekend in May but was very close to making his comeback on Friday.
In his absence, Australian recruit Jacob Miller has come in and impressed over the last couple of months since signing from Wests Tigers and – even though Horne was in terrific form before injury struck – it is hard to envisage Gentle breaking up his flourishing partnership with stand-off Daniel Holdsworth,
Horne’s experience, though, could still be vital given he is one of just three survivors from Hull’s last Challenge Cup success in 2005 and he could yet be utilised at full-back.
That would be tough on Jamie Shaul, however, the 21-year-old who has featured there impressively ever since McDonnell was injured in the semi-final win over Warrington. He only made his senior debut at Easter and has played just five first-team games.
But the former bricklayer has pace to burn and shown real try-scoring prowess with eight tries in that handful of fixtures.
Wigan coach Shaun Wane is “confident” his captain Sean O’Loughlin will return after missing two games with a calf injury while second-row Harrison Hansen has signed again for 2014.
Meanwhile, Gentle believes his fellow Australians are – for once – behind the times by not having their own version of the prestigious 116-year-old knockout competition.
“It is unique and a big attraction,” he said.
“I don’t know how they’d fit it into the schedule but it’s definitely something the NRL miss out on.
“I think it’s a lure for NRL players to come here, to play in this comp’ and to play in the final at Wembley is one of the greatest achievements you can get in our sport.”