Leeds Rhinos: A massive Challenge ahead to reach Wembley – McGuire

Danny McGuire lifts the Challenge Cup last year watched by Kevin Sinfield.

Danny McGuire lifts the Challenge Cup last year watched by Kevin Sinfield.

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LAST WEEK took me back to when I was 17 or 18, sitting on the bench and not knowing if I’d get on.

I haven’t been a substitute much during the last few years and it was a bit of a strange experience, but I knew the picture before the game.

It was chucking it down all game and I was nice and snug on the bench, so I just tried to keep out of the way and hoped I’d get forgotten about!

Actually, I was itching to get on, but Mac told me beforehand there was a chance I wouldn’t be used, depending how things went.

At one stage I wasn’t going to be in the 17, but there was a doubt over Kev’s shoulder and Rob after his concussion, so it was a case of better safe than sorry. I have played a lot of rugby this year, I’ve only missed one game and while you want to play every minute of every match, as you get older you realise how important it is to get a rest every now and then and to make sure your preparation and recovery is spot on.

We needed to get the job done, but obviously it was a short turnaround to tonight’s semi-final and I think Mac was really smart with the way he handled things.

Joel Moon got a bit of a rest, I wasn’t used, JP only got limited time after being rested the week before and Cuthbo was on the bench.

We won the game and got through without any major injuries and Tom Briscoe and Jonesy both came through their comeback unscathed, so we are in good shape.

It’s nice to have everybody, or nearly everybody, fit and healthy going into the biggest games of the season.

With the Cup game tonight and then the Super-8s starting next weekend, it is going to be like a semi-final every week from now on.

We’re not avoiding the fact we’ve beaten Saints twice this year in the league. We played really well both times and there’s a lot we can take out of those victories.

We can take a lot of confidence from the wins at Langtree Park and Headingley four weeks ago and we’d be stupid not to look at the areas where we broke them down.

We have reviewed the things that worked for us, but nobody is expecting tonight to be anything other than really tough. Saints are a fantastic side and they are in good form. Tonight will be totally different to the league games and we know we are going to have to play well, to be at nine or 10 out of 10 to get back to Wembley.

To be honest, I would prefer the game to be tomorrow. For me, the Challenge Cup, especially at this stage, has always been a Saturday afternoon competition.

But I understand the reasons behind it. With the game being on BBC 2 we’ve got a good opportunity to show off what a great sport rugby league is and hopefully the armchair viewers will see a cracking tie.

It isn’t easy to get over to Warrington on a Friday night and Saints are in their own backyard so they’ll have a lot of support and I hope our fans can make the trip, really get behind us and act like the 18th man.

We play our home games on Friday nights, so it doesn’t really make any difference to us.

You always try to keep things relatively normal, but this isn’t just another game, it’s a huge match with a massive prize at the end of it. There’s no second chances if you lose and we won’t be leaving anything off the field. It is one we desperately want to win.

The other semi-final should be a good one as well. Warrington will be favourites, they have got a good Cup record and they are starting to hit their straps now.

They have been a bit inconsistent this year, but when they get their attacking game together they are a tough team to stop. But I think Hull KR have put all their eggs in the Cup basket. They beat Wigan early in the competition and that shows what they are capable of.

They have got some very good players, who have been involved in big games in the past and they will have a lot of support behind them.

I think I’d tip Warrington to win, but it might be a lot closer than some people are expecting.

Leeds Rhinos' Carl Ablett powers through the Featherstone defence during the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup quarter-final match at Headingley Carnegie. PIC: Richard Sellers/PA Wire

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