It’s that time in the Challenge Cup where Super League sides join the competition after two rounds fought out between the lower leagues. Only four Championship sides remain as the battle for Wembley hots up. But, just how will this weekend’s ties go?
Hull KR v Castleford
Tony Smith names just 20 players, with Ethan Ryan and Jimmy Keinhorst both included. Elliot Minchella drops out after sustaining a season-ending knee injury, while Brad Takairangi (hamstring), Will Maher (hamstring) and Joe Keyes (back)remain unavailable. Korbin Sims and Matty Storton also drop out of the squad. Gareth O’Brien returns for the Tigers after missing out last week due to concussion protocols. He replaces youngster Lewis Peachey in the 21. Sosaia Feki (achilles), Suaia Matagi (calf), James Clare (knee), Alex Foster (bicep) and Jacques O’Neill remain unavailable. The Tigers have won their opening two games, whilst Rovers have lost both and this tie should only go one way.
Castleford by 12
York v Wigan
The City Knights have brushed both Sheffield Eagles and London Broncos aside so far in the competition but started their Championship campaign off with a 21-6 loss to Toulouse last week. As one of the second tier’s top clubs, though, they’ll be hoping for a historic upset in what will be the first Challenge Cup fixture staged at their newly-built ground. The Warriors, meanwhile, survived a first round scare against newly-promoted Leigh, winning 20-18, before a convincing 34-6 victory over Wakefield last week. Wigan remain unchanged from last week, whilst York trio AJ Towse, Myles Harrison and Toby Warren are included by James Ford for the first time this season, with several experienced players missing out. Among them are Danny Kirmond, Chris Clarkson, Jack Teanby and Jordan Baldwinson, while Kriss Brining (hamstring) and Morgan Smith (ACL) are out injured. Wigan should have too much.
Wigan by 16
St Helens v Leeds
Mark Percival and Agnatius Paasi both return for Saints after missing out last week through injury. Lachlan Coote is also set to make his first appearance of the season after sitting out the first two league games despite being involved in the 21. Young forward Jake Wingfield retains his place in the squad, with Aaron Smith and Tom Nisbet dropping out. Morgan Knowles continues to be unavailable as he recovers from a thumb injury. There’s just one change to the Rhinos’ 21, with teenage forward Morgan Gannon replacing Richie Myler, who was a late omission last week with a hamstring issue. Luke Gale is named despite reports he has broken his thumb, while it looks like there will be no debut for Kyle Eastmond against his former club. Saints are sitting pretty in Super League with two wins from two, whilst Leeds have struggled with injuries to win just one, but the Lancashire club should be too strong here.
St Helens by 18
Catalans v Wakefield
Steve McNamara remains without Michael McIlorum and Joel Tomkins through suspension, while Mickael Goudemand and Arthur Romano are out injured. There’s two changes to the 21, with 6ft8 back rower Corentin Le Cam and forward Jordan Dezaria, who this week signed a full-time contract with the club, replacing Lambert Belmas and Joe Chan. The big news for Trinity is that fullback Max Jowitt has recovered from an ankle injury and is in line for his first action of the season, replacing Brad Walker. Catalans have two wins from two in Super League whilst Wakefield have no points on the board. The Dragons are at home too which will make Trinity’s task even harder.
Catalans by 20
Featherstone v Hull FC
Former Castleford and Huddersfield stand-off Tom Holmes has recovered from a minor knock and will be competing with Dane Chisholm and off-season recruit Fa’amanu Brown for a spot in the halves. Experienced trio Craig Kopczak, James Lockwood and John Davies come out of the side, while Thomas Minns is unavailable due to Covid-19 protocols. Former Leeds Rhinos youngsters Harvey Spence, Loui McConnell and Liam Whitton are all included. FC will be without star signing Josh Reynolds for six weeks after the stand-off picked up a hamstring injury against Salford. Ligi Sao also sustained an ankle knock and is unavailable this weekend. Marc Sneyd, meanwhile, has shrugged off the leg injury that forced him off last week, while Josh Bowden and Jack Brown are back in contention after recovering from concussion and ankle problems respectively. Hull have started the Super League season like a house on fire, winning both of their opening games whilst Featherstone remain unbeaten in 2021. The Airlie Birds will put a big score on Rovers.
Hull by 30
Salford v Widnes
Richard Marshall has made several rotations to his side, with Morgan Escare, Oliver Roberts, Sam Luckley, Chris Atkin and Darcy Lussick replacing Kevin Brown, Elijah Taylor, Dan Sarginson, Ryan Lannon and Danny Addy. Joe Burgess (ankle) and Greg Burke (knee) remain unavailable through injury. Simon Finnigan names a 20-man squad to face the Red Devils, which includes Lee Jewitt who returns from a minor knock picked up in training. Matt Cook is ruled out with a back injury, while Eribe Doro is also unavailable as part of his loan deal from Warrington. Widnes could well pull off a shock here with Salford out-of-form so far in 2021.
Widnes by 4
Swinton v Warrington
Swinton team news to follow…
There’s two changes for the Wolves with Matt Davis and Sitaleki Akauola coming into the side after recovering from injury. They replace Mike Cooper and Gareth Widdop. There’s still no Greg Inglis as the former Australian international continues to gain match fitness. Warrington should be far too good here.
Warrington by 30
Leigh v Huddersfield
Former New South Wales State of Origin hooker Nathan Peats could be set for his Centurions debut as one of two changes to the squad. Experienced forward Ben Flower also comes in after recovering from a leg injury, with Nathan Mason and Nathan Roebuck dropping out. Ben Reynolds is also included after being a late call-up against Warrington last week.
Huddersfield team news to follow…