Challenge Cup Final: All roads have led to Wembley for friendly final foes

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LEEDS RHINOS captain Kevin Sinfield has spoken about Shaun Lunt’s “infectious enthusiasm” and admitted if his own side fail to win at Wembley there would be no one better than the Hull KR hooker to finally be crowned as a Challenge Cup victor.

The pair played together at Headingley in 2012 when Lunt was on a season-long loan from Huddersfield Giants and helped the club to a Grand Final win.

MUTUAL RESPECT: Shaun Lunt, left, and Kevin Sinfield celebrate after Leeds Rhinos' Grand Final victory over Warrington. Picture: Steve Riding

MUTUAL RESPECT: Shaun Lunt, left, and Kevin Sinfield celebrate after Leeds Rhinos' Grand Final victory over Warrington. Picture: Steve Riding

Following another loan from Huddersfield, the former England international is an integral part of the Hull KR side that has reached Saturday’s showpiece occasion.

Lunt, 28, is seen as a vital part of the Robins’ plans to cause a shock and down the holders which would see them lift the trophy for only the second time in their 133-year history.

He has scored six tries in 15 games since moving to East Yorkshire in March, including the clincher in their epic semi-final win over Warrington at Headingley, and Sinfield admitted: “Shaun has been great for Hull KR.

“During the time he was here with the Rhinos we travelled together, and his enthusiasm was really infectious.

“I like to think I’m a balanced bloke – I don’t have mood swings and stuff like that – and Lunty was on a high all the time.

“He was great to travel with; he’d be the happiest man in the world at six in the morning.

“I have to say that if out of all the teams we’ve faced and all the players, if we weren’t good enough on the day he’s a good friend and it’d be nice to see him with a medal – although we’ll be doing everything possible to prevent that.”

Former England captain Sinfield, playing at Wembley for the last time before switching codes with Yorkshire Carnegie at the end of the season, believes every changing room requires such a bubbly character.

“I never found him annoying,” said the 34-year-old with a smile.

“He was always good fun – and fuelled by espressos. He’s done really well for himself and was great with Leeds.

“He helped us win a Grand Final and you need people like him so I wish him well.”

Lunt scored eight tries in 24 appearances for Leeds three years ago when he also reached Wembley in their colours but, unfortunately, was in a side that lost 35-18 to Warrington.

He suffered a Challenge Cup final defeat to Warrington, too, with Huddersfield in 2009 – his current Hull KR captain Tyrone McCarthy was in the victorious Wolves side both times – so is looking to make it third time lucky this Saturday.

The Cumbrian admitted: “It has been brilliant to be involved in but it’s one of those things where you want to win it or get knocked out in the first round.

“At least if you get knocked out in the first round you get a few weekly rounds’ rest.

“Nobody wants to lose in this competition because it’s steeped in such massive history and is such a prestigious trophy.

“I just want to get my hands on it and give it a big kiss one day.

“Tyrone has won it twice so I said to him I’m either going to have three losers’ medals or he’s going to have three winners’ medals. Hopefully, he will have three winners’ because that means I will have one, too.”

On Sinfield’s comments, Lunt added: “I am a happy person. And a morning person – although not so much any more with two kids.

“Kev fed off that, so it was really good. We shared a car for about six months, him coming in from Oldham and meeting me at the Holiday Inn at Brighouse or when I used to live at Elland at the lay-by on Junction 24.

“We do get on really well and are still good friends today.

“People think he’s boring because he’s the ultimate professional and good at everything, so people like to slag off people who do well.

“Kev doesn’t really get the plaudits he deserves from his fellow professionals because a lot of them are jealous of him. But me, personally, I’m very good friends with him and as a person he’s brilliant, a champion bloke.”

Lunt, who is expected to sign a permanent deal with Rovers shortly, revealed he had always envisaged meeting the Leeds legend in this Challenge Cup final.

“We always speak and earlier on in the year I said ‘I’ll see you at Wembley’. That was ages ago. We always wish each other luck at the weekends before a game and congratulate each other if we win.

“I congratulated him after Leeds beat Saints (in the semi) and he wished me all the best for the Warrington game. Then we won and it came true; we were at Wembley.

“Coming from an absolute legend of the game, it does mean a lot that he says he’d like me to win it if Leeds can’t.

“I said to the same to Kev – ‘if we lose this game, there’s no one else I’d rather lose it to than yourself.’

“It would be bitter-sweet and obviously I want to win it. But seeing a legend of the game like that going out on a high would be the silver lining.”