FORMER COACH Tony Smith would love to see some of Leeds Rhinos’ club legends win the Tetley’s Challenge Cup – but not at his team’s expense.
Smith stressed there will be no room for sentiment when Warrington Wolves take on Rhinos in Saturday’s semi-final at St Helens’ Langtree Park.
Jamie Peacock is the only member of Rhinos’ 2014 squad with a Challenge Cup winner’s medal and time is running out for the likes of Kevin Sinfield, Rob Burrow, Danny McGuire and Jamie Jones-Buchanan to add a Wembley victory to their glittering list of honours. Smith coached 10 of the current Leeds team during his spell at the club from 2004-2007 and he said: “I have a lot of respect and friendship for a lot of those players.
“If we weren’t to be involved in the same competition I would be delighted for them to win it. I know them and I know how hard they work.
“But only if we weren’t still involved in the competition would I feel that way. Sport is not about sentiment – and they would not want my sentiment.
“It is all about dealing with the game itself, about who can control the game, go through their processes and carry out their game plan the way they want to.
“I care about those people and I certainly hope they play well on Saturday, but I hope my team plays better.”
This weekend’s tie will be the third time Smith has coached Warrington against Rhinos in the Challenge Cup, but the first outside Wembley.
Warrington beat Leeds in the 2010 and 2012 Challenge Cup finals and are bidding for a third win under Smith’s coaching, having also defeated Huddersfield Giants in 2009.
“There’s no secret,” he insisted of Warrington’s success in the knock-out competition.
“We have had some good results over the last few years, just like Leeds have had success in Super League. If we knew the secret we would win it every year.
“But what I think can happen is you have some good form one year – as we did in 2009 – and that gives you a bit of experience of how to play these games.
“Players can pass that on to the next year and the year after that and once you have had a taste you want to go back. That is how we are as a club.”
Saturday will be Warrington’s third meeting with Rhinos this year, with both teams having won their home Super League fixture.
Warrington’s 24-6 victory two months ago was Leeds’ heaviest defeat this season
And Rhinos will go into Saturday on the back of a shock 20-12 home loss to already-relegated Bradford Bulls.
But Smith insisted: “We won’t be reading too much into last week. They had a number of players who didn’t play who will be appearing this week.”
Smith added: “And we understand that anything can happen in a derby fixture.
“Leeds are a very dangerous team.
“They are capable of beating any team in the competition.
“And we certainly won’t be under-estimating them.
“We are expecting them to play well.”