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Challenge Cup final preview
At Wembley Stadium, Saturday August 27, kick-off 2.30pm
Leeds and Wigan go head-to-head at Wembley on Saturday with both teams desperate to get their hands on the Carnegie Challenge Cup.
The Rhinos have endured heartache on their last four appearances in the showpiece event, including suffering a humbling 30-8 defeat at the hands of Warrington last year.
Wigan, in contrast, have not appeared in a Wembley final since 1998, when they were sensationally beaten by massive underdogs Sheffield Eagles.
This year the Warriors will again start as heavy favourites. The reigning Super League champions ended the Wolves' two-year reign as cup holders in the quarter-finals and then got the better of fierce local rivals St Helens in the last four.
However, that loss to the Eagles will counter against any complacency creeping in to Michael Maguire's in-form squad.
The Australian will leave his post at the end of the current campaign and having already won the league last year, a Challenge Cup triumph would complete his medal collection before he heads back Down Under to take charge at the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
Wigan wrapped up their preparations with a final training session at Saracens on Friday morning. Former captain Andy Farrell, who was in charge when the Cherry and Whites last played at Wembley, was on hand to cast a watching eye over proceedings - he will also be at the game this weekend.
"Faz came and watched training," said Maguire. "He has had a fair bit to do with our team in the time I've been here.
"Faz helps out where he can. He's a great person to have around. He's a great ambassador for Wigan and to have him around the players is special."
Maguire has admitted that he has already informed his squad of who will be playing, though the line-up will not be publicly declared until an hour before kick-off.
Lee Mossop, Andy Coley and Brett Finch are all likely to return having been rested for last week's convincing league win over Bradford at the DW Stadium.
Wigan last lifted the trophy at Murrayfield in 2002, while they defeated Leeds twice in the mid-1990s during a run of eight straight final victories.
The Rhinos, meanwhile, were pipped by Bradford (2003) and Hull (2005) in thrilling finals staged at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.
They needed extra time to see off Yorkshire rivals Castleford in the semi-finals, captain Kevin Sinfield kicking them back to Wembley with a golden-point penalty at the Keepmoat Stadium.
Like opposite number Maguire, McDermott has already finalised his team. The issue all week for the former Quins boss has been the fitness of centre pairing Kallum Watkins and Carl Ablett.
Watkins was rated as only '50-50' at the start of the week after twisting his knee in the away loss to Harlequins last weekend, but both he and Ablett have been passed fit for action.
"If you are asking me if he's 100% fit, then he's not. I won't tell you a lie," McDermott said of Watkins. "But that goes for about 50% of the squad, as I reckon Michael Maguire can say about 50% of his squad."
The Leeds players were greeted by steady drizzle when they arrived at the stadium on Friday and, with showers forecast for the day of the match, the outsiders are preparing themselves to play wet-weather rugby.
McDermott said: "We're all good at playing in the rain, aren't we? We're
experts at it because it's been a horrible summer.
"Most Friday nights at Headingley have been wet for us. I think both teams
will be glad it won't be scorching hot."
Leeds squad: Brent Webb, Lee Smith, Brett Delaney, Ryan Hall, Danny McGuire, Rob Burrow, Kylie Leuluai, Danny Buderus, Jamie Peacock, Jamie Jones-Buchanan, Carl Ablett, Kevin Sinfield, Ali Lauitiiti, Ryan Bailey, Ian Kirke, Kallum Watkins, Weller Hauraki, Chris Clarkson, Ben Jones-Bishop
Wigan squad: Sam Tomkins, Darrell Goulding, George Carmont, Pat Richards, Paul Deacon, Thomas Leuluai, Michael McIlorum, Andy Coley, Harrison Hansen, Joel Tomkins, Sean O'Loughlin, Paul Prescott, Jeff Lima, Ryan Hoffman, Brett Finch, Lee Mossop, Liam Farrell, Josh Charnley, Gareth Hock
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|Tetleys Challenge Cup|
|Saturday 7th March|
|14:00||Elland vs Featherstone Lions|
|14:00||Wath Brow vs Newcastle Thunder|
|14:00||Oulton Raiders vs Normanton Knights|
|14:30||Leigh Miners Rangers vs West Hull|
|15:00||London Skolars vs Swinton|
|17:00||Kells vs Rochdale Hornets|
|Sunday 8th March|
|14:00||Barrow vs Keighley|
|14:00||South Wales vs York|
|14:30||North Wales Crusaders vs Widnes West Bank|
|14:30||Hemel Stags vs Oxford|
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