Smith fancies cup run despite tough draw

Hull KR head coach Tony Smith has set his sights on Wembley despite a tough draw against Championship table-toppers Leigh in the fifth round of the Challenge Cup.

Rovers will host the Centrurions at Hull College Craven Park next month as they aim to repeat their cup heroics of 2015 when they reached the final.

Smith, who has plenty of pedigree in the competition, reacted to the draw in the Legends Lounge at the Robins’ home ground on Monday night.

He said: “Whoever you draw in the cup is a tough fixture, no matter whether they’re Super League or the Championship, they’re all tough.

“But Leigh, they’re a good team, they’ve had a good start to the season, they’ve got some very experienced players, yeah, it’ll be a good fixture.”

Smith knows how to win the Challenge Cup more than most, lifting the trophy three times in four years during his spell in charge of the Warrington Wolves.

Hull KR fans will be hopeful Tony Smith can bring a long-awaited Challenge Cup trophy to Craven Park. Credit: Craig Milner/News Images

Unsurprisingly, the 53-year-old has a lot of love for the competition and believes the road to Wembley is as open as ever this year.

“The fact that it’s a knock-out competition makes it intriguing,” said Smith. “There’s fairytale stories, underdog stories, there’s a bit of everything in it every year.

“You might be one of the most unfancied teams in the competition, but you can still come up with a good run and come up with a good result and find yourself in some pretty big matches in front of some pretty big crowds.

“That’s the beauty of it, it’s got a romance to it and, if you win it, you’ve gone through it undefeated and that’s pretty special.

“There’ll be some tough games, there’ll be some twists and turns and there’ll be some upsets, it always happens in the cup.

“In every round of the cup there’s something that happens, that’s intriguing and that’s the beauty of it.”

Hull KR were knocked out last season by eventual Challenge Cup winners Warrington. Credit: Craig Milner/News Images

This year sees the final brought forward to July with a more congested round-by-round schedule in the lead up to the big Wembley date.

Despite this and dwindling attendances in recent seasons, Smith still believes the Challenge Cup brings magic that no other competition can provide.

“There’s a lot of romance about it and a lot of tradition about it,” he said. “It’s one of those and it draws a lot of interest around the world.

“I know every Aussie says it, the waking up early in the morning, when your dad wakes you up to watch the Challenge Cup Final, and that’s how it’s been for Australians.

“It’s special to the British people. It’s a bit different, Australia don’t have that knock-out competition, they have tried it in different stages, in different ways and periods of time.

“It’s never really kicked off, but it’s something that works. It’s something that’s unique.

“I’ve been to a few Wembley finals when I haven’t been involved as a coach and the atmosphere is fantastic.

“You have supporters from every club and it’s just a great day out in London, and for some a great weekend away. It’s something that everybody likes to be a part of.”

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