ST HELENS’ MAN of Steel contender James Roby has given rival Paul Aiton a glowing reference ahead of tonight’s Ladbrokes Challenge Cup semi-final.
Roby reckons his fellow hooker is one of Leeds Rhinos’ most improved players this term and a massive threat to Saints’ hopes of a first Wembley appearance since 2008.
“I think he has been playing fantastic this year and as a fellow number nine, he does a lot of tackling and attacking,” Roby said of Aiton.
“It’s definitely a position that takes a lot out of you, so he must have good endurance and stamina to do it.
“Then you’re mixing it with the big lads as well, so you have to be able to hold your own.
“But Paul is a great player and he can hit a bit too.
“He has got a good shot on him, so it’s a strength of his and every time I see him he has improved as a player, especially this season.
“But hopefully I’ll outplay him on Friday.”
Tonight’s venue, Warrington’s HJ Stadium, has not been a happy hunting ground for Leeds. Rhinos have lost on their last five visits, since an epic victory in a Super League semi-final in September, 2011.
By contrast, Saints have an impressive record in Warrington and won 20-14 at HJ Stadium in Super League just two weeks ago, when Roby was among their try scorers.
Roby admitted that could give Saints a boost this evening, but he is wary of Leeds’ record on the big occasion.
He said: “We always seem to play well there. It’s probably a bit of an advantage that it’s not too far away from us, but Leeds know what it takes to win big games.”