LEEDS RHINOS women have reached every possible final since their first game last year and coach Adam Cuthbertson is confident they won’t freeze on the big stage tomorrow.
Rhinos’ Coral Challenge Cup final showdown with Castleford Tigers, at University of Bolton Stadium (11.15am), will be the highest-profile game of club women’s rugby league staged in this country.
The tie will be streamed live on the BBC Sport website and is the opening match of a triple-header also involving both men’s semi-finals.
It is a big step up from what the players are used to, but Cuthbertson reckons Rhinos will cope.
“We are a fairly new team, but we’ve had chance to play in some good stadiums,” he pointed out.
“We played in the Challenge Cup final and the Grand Final last year and there was the curtain-raiser at Headingley last week, which was a big crowd. We’ve had a few opportunities to play in similar stadiums and we know what the pressure and hype is all about.”
Though unbeaten Tigers are top of Super League and will go into the final as favourites, Cuthbertson insisted: “That doesn’t bother us.
“We know we are underdogs, but we were all last year. It is a blessing in some ways because it takes all the pressure away.
“Cas are favourites and rightly so, they have had a brilliant start to the season, but we are slowly starting to gain some momentum.”
Rhinos are still without Lois Forsell, who was player of the match and scored the clinching try when they beat Tigers in last year’s final.
She suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury later in the season and her recovery was delayed when the damaged knee became infected.
But Cuthbertson confirmed: “Apart from Lois we are at full-strength. I don’t know if we have had an opportunity to train at full-strength this year, never mind play, so it’s good we’ll have our best squad on the field in the final.”
Tigers’ side will include former Leeds forward Rhiannion Marshall who was cleared to play after a four-game ban was reduced to three on appeal this week.
Cuthbertson said: “We’re not too bothered who they field, we’ve just got to bring our best game and if we do that we’ll be happy.”