TWO-TIME WINNER Kallum Watkins reckons Leeds Rhinos are capable of retaining the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup.
Watkins was in the team which beat Castleford at Wembley in 2014 and kept hold of the trophy with a record-breaking win over Hull KR a year later.
Rhinos have won just six of their 20 competitive fixtures since their 2015 Challenge Cup triumph and go into tomorrow’s sixth round tie at Huddersfield Giants bottom of First Utility Super League.
Giants were the last team to defeat Leeds in the Challenge Cup and won 28-20 when the sides met at John Smith’s Stadium in Super League last Friday.
The odds are stacked against Rhinos, but Watkins feels Leeds are capable of another successful Cup run.
“Obviously our season has not been great,” he said. “But this is a new competition and the Challenge Cup is very special, especially to this club over the last couple of years.
“It can give us a bit of a springboard and a bit of a boost. We are looking forward to this game, against a strong team.”
Under the format introduced last year, three wins would take Rhinos to Wembley. Watkins added: “That is do-able.
“We know we need to improve and this week is going to be tough. Obviously it is a huge challenge for us, but hopefully we can get some players back, like Zak [Hardaker] and Cuthbo [Adam Cuthbertson] and come up with a better performance than last week.”
Leeds led as late as the 73rd minute six days ago, but two late tries secured Giants’ third win of the campaign.
“I thought we played pretty well, but too many mistakes probably cost us in the end,” Watkins reflected.
“But we know we are improving as a team, which is great for us. We just need to turn results around.
“We weren’t far off last week and it has always been tough and intense between us and Huddersfield.
“We are in a similar position and we know how tight these games are going to be. We just have to manage the little things.
“If you get the little things right you probably have the edge in winning games. This week hopefully we can do that.
“We have worked hard this week in training and hopefully we can perform well on Friday.”
The Challenge Cup has a history of bringing good performances out of Leeds, particularly in the early rounds.
“For myself, I need to improve,” Watkins admitted. “Certainly last week was disappointing, but the Challenge Cup is a special competition and it can bring the best out of everyone.
“It is something to go for. Huddersfield will be highly confident they can beat us again, so we have got to prepare well, which I think we have been doing all week.
“If we do the little things right, cut the errors out and give ourselves a better opportunity to perform well, hopefully we can come up with a good result.”
Hardaker and Cuthbertson have both been named in tomorrow’s initial 19-man squad. Hardaker missed last week’s game due to concussion and Cuthbertson has been out for four weeks with an elbow problem. Jordan Baldwinson is in contention for only his second appearance of the season, with debutant Cameron Smith dropping out from last week’s team. Players still on Rhinos’ casualty list are Tom Briscoe, Joel Moon, Ryan Hall, Danny McGuire, Beau Falloon, Carl Ablett, Stevie Ward and