This week sees a change of competition as the sixth Round of the Challenge Cup begins in earnest. Hull FC start the defence of their much-coveted trophy against Catalans Dragons at the KCOM Stadium.
After breaking the Wembley hoodoo in style last August, Lee Radford and his troops will be hell bent on maintaining their status as Cup Kings. FC’s form leading up to this match has been promising, while the Dragons who were 2007 Runners-up, have struggled to find any consistency of late.
As the adage goes though; form often goes out the window for cup games and this match-up could be an intriguing one. Catalans have already won at the KCOM this season and will fancy their chances of repeating that result.
The Airlie Birds welcome Scott Taylor back after returning from international duty. However, FC are still missing Sika Manu, who is serving the second game of a two-match ban, and Fetuli Talanoa with an ankle injury.
Carlos Tuimavave joins the injury list after suffering concussion against Widnes last week. Danny Houghton and Josh Bowden retain their places after coming through unscathed last week, meanwhile youngsters Brad Fash, Jansin Turgut and Masi Matongo keep their spots in the 19-man squad along with the recalled Jack Downs.
The Dragons are decimated by a huge injury list that now includes Greg Bird after he fractured an eye-socket against Leeds. Dragons’ Coach Laurent Fraysinnous has named just 18 players in his match-day squad as he faces the prospect of eleven players being unable to play on Friday.
Brayden Wiliame, Thomas Bosc, Paul Aiton, Ben Garcia and Louis Anderson, Jodie Broughton, Jason Baitieri, Luke Burgess, Justin Horo and Krisnan Inu are all on the sidelines. Paul Seguier, Alex Da Costa, Jordan Dezaria and Matthieu Khedimi have been called up, while key pivot Luke Walsh returns from suspension.
If there’s two things you can guarantee with Laurent Fraysinnous’ team, it’s that they will be physical and that they’ll undoubtedly try to slow the pace of the game down. The man in the middle could make all the difference but welcoming Scott Taylor back on the pitch is vital for a potentially bruising clash.
The Dragons remain an enigma in 2017 but the returning Luke Walsh must be monitored more closely than in Hull’s Round 1 Super League defeat. I suspect the panache of players like Albert Kelly and Danny Houghton could be a little too much for the Catalans to handle and they may resort to spoiling tactics.
Hull FC Squad: Jamie Shaul, Mahe Fonua, Josh Griffin, Albert Kelly, Marc Sneyd, Scott Taylor, Danny Houghton, Liam Watts, Mark Minichiello, Jake Connor, Chris Green, Jordan Thompson, Danny Washbrook, Steve Michaels, Josh Bowden, Jansin Turgut, Jack Downs, Brad Fash, Masimbaashe Matongo.
Catalans Squad: Tony Gigot, Fouad Yaha, Luke Walsh, Richie Myler, Sam Moa, Remi Casty, Julian Bousquet, Vincent Duport, Mickael Simon, Iain Thornley, Lucas Albert, Alex Da Costa, Paul Seguier, Thibaud, Margalet, Lambert Belmas, Ugo Perez, Jordan Dezaria, Matthieu Khedimi.
Prediction: Hull by 12