HULL FC head coach Lee Radford admits he can ill-afford to take any risks in their intriguing Ladbrokes Challenge Cup sixth round tie at Featherstone Rovers.
The holders hope to reach Wembley and win the famous competition for a third successive campaign this season becoming only the second side to do so since Wigan in 1990.
Last year’s top-eight Super League clubs come in at the last 16 stage and, in yesterday’s draw, Hull were picked to face Championship part-timers Featherstone.
In reality, it is a decent draw for Radford’s side but he will remain wary of John Duffy’s in-form team who have won nine of their opening 11 games this term, sit second in the table and boast a raft of former top-flight players.
Furthermore, it was Featherstone, of course, who created one of the biggest Challenge Cup shocks in the competition’s 122-year history when they beat Hull in the 1983 Wembley final.
That continued the East Yorkshire club’s infamous run of never winning at Wembley, one Radford at last helped lay to rest when his Black and Whites beat Warrington Wolves in 2016.
But he told The Yorkshire Post last night: “We’ve been speaking about it today and the Challenge Cup is now a tough one.
“You’d love to take the opportunity to freshen some bodies up and rest a few players.
“But because we now come into the competition so late there isn’t really a chance to do that as everyone that’s left is a quality side.
“It means you don’t get that luxury anymore. It will be a tough one especially over at their place.
“I remember as a player playing at Featherstone plenty of times before. I’ll never forget their changing rooms. Let’s just say it’s an old school ground.
“It’ll make for a great atmosphere, though, and it’ll be the biggest game of the season for them.
“I’m sure the Flatcappers will be out in big numbers.
“I wasn’t aware, either, that it’s the first time the clubs have met in the Challenge Cup since that day in 1983 so that adds another element, too.”
Featherstone knocked out top-flight Castleford Tigers in 2012 as well so they do have recent experience of creating such shocks.
Radford, meanwhile, confirmed Albert Kelly will be included in his 19-man squad for Saturday’s trip to Catalans Dragons despite footage that emerged last weekend of an unsavoury incident involving the Australian half-back in a McDonalds restaurant.
In other ties, last season’s League Leaders Shield winners Castleford host current leaders St Helens while Wakefield Trinity also face Super League opposition when they head to struggling Huddersfield Giants.
Hull KR entertain Wigan while ambitious Championship side Toronto Wolfpack were drawn at home to Warrington but will reverse the fixture and play it at Halliwell Jones Stadium.
Whitehaven – the last remaining League 1 club – are rewarded with a trip to France to face Catalans who, of course, only just scraped through after being pushed hard by another League 1 side York City Knights on Sunday.
That game was watched by more than 25,000 viewers on the BBC’s live streaming service.
Championship Leigh Centurions, with home advantage, may fancy their chances of overturning Salford Red Devils.
The remaining tie sees Leeds Rhinos – victors in 2014 and 2015 – heading to Widnes Vikings.
Leeds second-row Jamie Jones-Buchanan attended yesterday’s draw as a guest on BBC Radio 2’s Chris Evans Breakfast show.
He provided live reaction along with Warrington winger Josh Charnley.
It was a great chance for Jones-Buchanan – who co-presents Rugby AM in his spare time – to gain a few tips from a broadcasting giant.
The former England international, 36, said: “I did learn plenty – mainly that I’ve got a heck of a lot still to learn! It was great to meet Chris Evans and, once I knew I was doing it, I had so many requests from different people to get mentions on the radio.
“The main thing, though, was getting such a big opportunity in front of an audience of millions to talk about rugby league and this great competition.
“I had a bit of a chat with him (Evans) off air and he’d told us he’d bumped into Kev Sinfield doing the London Marathon on Sunday. And he’s obviously a Warrington fan, too, as he knows (Wolves owner) Simon Moran, so he was chatting with Josh Charnley about that.”
Jones-Buchanan knows his side will be in for a challenging contest, too, given they have not won at Widnes since 2014.
“It’s a terrible record over there and we’ve had some hidings, too, not least earlier this year,” he said.
“Funnily enough, though, I called it before we went in for the draw. I just had a feeling we’d get Widnes away. It is a difficult one but it comes at an interesting period of the season just before Magic Weekend.
“You have to start hitting your straps around then and if we are to win the Challenge Cup again then we have to put our best foot forward.”
All ties will be played over the weekend of May 11-13 with two games shown live on BBC and another two on Sky Sports.
Challenge Cup sixth round draw: Hull Kingston Rovers v Wigan Warriors, Castleford Tigers v St Helens, Toronto Wolfpack v Warrington Wolves (at Warrington), Leigh Centurions v Salford Red Devils, Featherstone Rovers v Hull FC, Catalans Dragons v Whitehaven RLFC, Widnes Vikings v Leeds Rhinos, Huddersfield Giants v Wakefield Trinity.