Challenge Cup: Tough full-back selection choice for coach Chester

Kieran Dixon
Kieran Dixon
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FULL-BACK Kieran Dixon reckons lack of Cup final experience will not be a handicap for Hull KR when they face Leeds Rhinos at Wembley tomorrow.

Rhinos are the holders and have a combined total of 49 appearances in the showpiece event among their active squad, compared to Rovers’ five.

But Dixon – vying with former Wakefield Trinity Wildcats ace Ben Cockayne to be Rovers’ last line of defence tomorrow – is confident the underdogs can rise to the occasion.

“We have got a few heads that have been there before and we can look towards them to guide us,” Dixon said.

“To have people like that in our team is great.

“It helps all the other boys that haven’t experienced this type of cup final.

“Those experienced blokes have helped us and I think that will shine through on Saturday.”

Dixon added: “I think it’s important to not let the occasion gets to us. I think it’s going to be difficult because not many of us have experienced big games like this before, but as soon as the first whistle blows it’s game on and you’re not there for anybody else but your teammates and to get the game won.”

One of coach Chris Chester’s toughest decisions will be whether to select Dixon or Cockayne at full-back.

“I think this week is nerve wracking for everybody,” said Dixon, who moved north from London Broncos at the end of last year. “Nobody knows they are playing for sure until the coach makes his decision on the squad he wants to put out.

“I think there are a few players that have staked a claim for a position, but whether or not they get in the team is firmly up to Chris.

My first season has gone a lot better than I thought it was going to and the competition with Benny is great for someone like me.

I can only learn from playing with him, but obviously I want to cement the full-back for the long-term as well.

“I was lucky enough to get the number one shirt at the start of this season, but as we’ve seen over the course of the year it has been me and Benny swapping in and out of full-back. If was to miss out I would be really upset. I feel like I have managed my season pretty well with the situations I have been put in, but it’s out of my hands.”

The pacy Dixon feels Wembley will suit his style of play, though he admitted it might not be ideal for Rovers’ forwards.

“Hopefully the pitch is not too big because it will put a strain on our forward pack,” he said. “But at the same time a big pitch is great for the outside-backs because we like to play expansive rugby. It would suit my style of rugby. I like playing on big pitches with plenty of space to run into. If I see some space I back myself to poke my nose through.”

Dixon is expecting to be targeted by Rhinos’ kicking game, but is confident he can cope, despite some errors earlier this year. He said: “I don’t like making errors, but when you make them you have got to be allowed to fix them. I think I have had that this year. There have been some games where I’ve made errors and games that I’ve dropped out of, but it takes those matches to realise how hard you have to work.

“The way Chessy has allowed me to make mistakes and hasn’t pulled me off has helped me. I think that approach will help me develop as a player.”