Rhinos keen to keep a grip on Challenge Cup at St Helens

ON THE day he was announced as France’s new attack coach, Leeds Rhinos assistant Sean Long also found out he would be facing his old club St Helens in the Betfred Challenge Cup.

CUP NOUS: Leeds Rhinos assitant coach Sean Long. Picture: Phil Daly/Leeds Rhinos/SWpix.com.
CUP NOUS: Leeds Rhinos assitant coach Sean Long. Picture: Phil Daly/Leeds Rhinos/SWpix.com.

These are certainly interesting times for the former Great Britain No7; both prospects will no doubt bring his creative flair to the fore.

Long, 44, lifted the Challenge Cup five times during his glittering career with Saints and remains the only player to have won the Lance Todd Trophy as man-of-the-match on three occasions.

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He was Saints assistant coach until leaving for Harlequins in 2019 but returned to league with Leeds last autumn.

Cup holders Rhinos have been drawn to visit the Super League champions in the third round in what is clearly the tie of the round. Long, who hopes to see Leeds back up their opening day league win against Wakefield when they face Castleford Tigers on Good Friday, said: “It’s always been a priority for St Helens to win the Challenge Cup.

“They have had a lot of success in the past. They have come up short lately so I know it’s a priority now for the chairman Eammon McManus.

“He’ll be wanting to win that trophy. It’s up to us to put in a good performance.

“If we can build on from Wakefield, and step in the right direction against Cas, it’s anyone’s in the Cup. It’s just about rising to the occasion.”

STAR MAN: Sean Long won the Lance Todd Trophy three times during his career. Picture: Steve Bardens/PA.

Which is something Long more often than not did and the sort of experience Leeds will certainly utilise for this tie.

Saints have not lifted the Cup since Long’s last success in 2008.

Rhinos, of course, have succeeded three times since 2014, including last year’s win over Salford Red Devils.

Long said: “At the moment, it’s our trophy so they have to take it off us.

“We want to keep hold of it.

“I always believe once you’ve won it once and had that taste, you know how good it feels and you want more.”

Meanwhile, he will link up with France for the World Cup at the end of the year.

Long has worked as an assistant with Samoa at the last two tournaments but has now switched countries to assist former Catalans Dragons coach Laurent Frayssinous who is now France chief.

Sydney Roosters boss Trent Robinson is also working with France who are in the same group as England and Samoa for this autumn’s tournament.

Ex-Hull FC scrum-half Long, who famously featured for the last Great Britain side to beat Australia in 2006, said: “I’ve admired French rugby for a while and Catalans have done a really good job.

“To be part of the World Cup, I’d normally be involved with Samoa but when Laurent gave me a call there was no hesitation.

“I’m really looking forward to it and it’s a World Cup over here, so it’s always good to get involved.

“I’ve been involved with Samoa for the last seven years and in France’s pool is England and Samoa so I’ve a bit of insight there.

“It’s a tough group but I watched Catalans and Toulouse the other week and I thought Toulouse were outstanding.

“I’ve seen Carcassonne play Avignon and they’ve been entertaining games.”

Frayssinous said: “Sean Long was one of the best players of his generation, recognized in particular for rocking a match thanks to his science of the game and his vision. I’m very happy he is with us.”

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