Challenge Cup Final: The key battles

With the Wembley final just a few days away, talk is starting to heat up ahead of this year’s Challenge Cup final at Wembley on Saturday.

Leeds Rhinos take on Hull Kingston Rovers with the Rhinos bidding to retain the cup won at the national stadium last year – but they will face a stern test from the Robins, who have beaten both Wigan and Warrington to date in the competition in 2015.

As always, the game could well be settled with some key battles all across the park – and has picked out three in particular which could prove crucial on Saturday to determine which team will be the victor.

Hooker: Rob Burrow v Shaun Lunt
With Paul Aiton out for the rest of the season due to an arm injury, Rob Burrow seems the certain choice to continue as Leeds’ starting hooker at Wembley on Saturday afternoon. The experienced utility man will play a key role in Leeds’ quest for glory, but he will be up against a former teammate at No.9 as the Rhinos look to retain their trophy. Shaun Lunt has proven to be an inspired signing for the Robins since joining on loan from Huddersfield, and his speed around the ruck will prove crucial when testing a resolute-looking Leeds side.

Prop: Adam Cuthbertson v Tony Puletua
Two inspired signings will likely lock horns at Wembley this weekend, as the prop battle could be settled by both sides’ in-form front-rower. There’s little doubting that Adam Cuthbertson has been a remarkable signing for Leeds since joining from the NRL at the beginning of the season – and Tony Puletua’s form for Hull KR since joining from Salford has also been impressive. Will the experienced former St Helens man be able to contain Cuthbertson’s unique offloading game, though?

Wing: Ryan Hall v Josh Mantellato
The wing battle is not one normally considered crucial in Rugby League, but two towering and impressive figures could both have a key say in what happens in the final this Saturday. There’s little doubting Ryan Hall’s pedigree; he’s the reigning Lance Todd Trophy winner and stole the show for the Rhinos this time last year. But Josh Mantellato’s form has also been brilliant – and he’s one to watch if KR deploy their tactic of hoisting kicks towards him.

Bonus battle: The goal-kicking
Should it come down to it, will both teams’ exemplary goal kickers have a key say in what happens and who lifts the Challenge Cup? Both have impressive strike rates from the tee – with Kevin Sinfield and Josh Mantellato both proving their worth for their team on numerous occasions this year. But will it be that close?