Leeds Rhinos are in it to win it, but boss Brian McDermott admits they face a tricky first hurdle on the road to Wembley.
Rhinos begin their bid to lift the trophy for the first time since 1999 tomorrow when they travel to Wakefield Trinity Wildcats in the fourth round of the Tetley’s Challenge Cup.
It is the first of back-to-back meetings between the West Yorkshire rivals, with Leeds having home advantage in a First Utility Super League showdown in six days’ time.
Jamie Peacock – a winner with Bradford Bulls against Leeds in 2000 and 2003 – is the only member of Rhinos’ squad to have lifted the Challenge Cup.
Rhinos have lost six finals since their record win over London Broncos 15 years ago and McDermott is making no attempt to play down the competition’s importance to his squad.
“We want to get through to the Challenge Cup final,” said McDermott, who was in charge for Leeds’ 2011 and 2012 Wembley defeats.
“I don’t think that is a secret, it is a goal of ours. Ultimately we would like to win it, but to do that – especially in the later stages, the semi-final and final – we are going to need to beat very good teams.
“It just so happens in round one we are doing that – we are playing a very good team and a very attacking team.
“Wakefield are no slouches and their coach Richard Agar has proved he has the ability to get a team up for a certain fixture.
“He knows how to get his players to punch above their weight. I rate him on that and I am sure he will be pulling out all the stops this week to make sure his team come up with an upset.”
Wakefield were crushed 44-6 at Hull KR six days ago, but McDermott insisted: “They have got a competitive squad and some players who can produce things.
“They will be full of enthusiasm and determination to put things right from last week.
“That was a bad result for them, but they are a better team than that result suggests.
“They will be determined to recover from that and get through to the next round of the Challenge Cup.
“Sometimes results like that can happen, but it’s only a few weeks ago that they put 50 points on Catalan and London.
“They are a very good attacking team who are capable of scoring points. They can come up with some special plays and we aren’t being lulled into any false sense given their result last week.”
Rhinos are also on the back of a loss, after suffering their first defeat of the season, 14-10 at St Helens, eight days ago.
McDermott said they were “disappointed” with the result, but he felt they played well in most aspects of the game.
And he revealed: “It was a tough game, played at a level of intensity far above anything we’ve had this year.
“The number of play-the-balls are an indicator of how long the ball is in play for. In most games it averages out at the late-290s, approaching 300.
“In our last 10 games of last year the average was 280-290 and in the play-off at Wigan it was 328.
“Last week there were 338 play-the-balls, which gives an indication of what level that game was played at and how intense it was.”