Leeds Rhinos’ Tom Halliwell eyes more joy over French in Wheelchair Challenge Cup Final

TOM HALLIWELL wants to keep England’s winning streak over France going in this weekend’s Wheelchair Challenge Cup Final.

Halliwell’s Leeds Rhinos will seek to win a fourth consecutive Challenge Cup title when they face Catalans Dragons at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield on Sunday (August 20, kick-off 1pm), in a match that will be shown live on BBC iPlayer.

The wheelchair game in England is riding the wave of winning a home World Cup last year, when Halliwell scored the winning try in an epic final against France, while Leeds also beat Catalans in last year’s Challenge Cup Final.

There will be another big clash between the countries the following week too, when the Dragons – as French champions – host reigning Super League holders Halifax Panthers on Friday, August 25, in the inaugural European Club Championship.

But with Leeds currently top of Super League, on seven wins from eight this year, Halliwell describes the Cup Final as “the battle of the two best teams”.

He said: “Catalans v Leeds is France v England. I think they will be taking that into it, trying to get revenge for what happened in November but also what happened last year when we won the Challenge Cup. We’re ready for that. 

“They’ve got the best player in the world (in Golden Boot winner Seb Bechara) and they’ve got so many French internationals. For me, they’re the favourites and we’re going in as the underdogs.

“We’re going through a transitional period, with James (Simpson) going from player to coach. 

“He’s doing really well, the ideas that he’s got I think are revolutionary to the game. What he’s trying to do with us is breathtaking.

“It’s different variations, a different style of play. We’re not a structured team, we play off the cuff. 

“We’ve got more in our locker this year, especially with the players we’ve got coming up. Josh Butler has been amazing this year, and so has Ewan Clibbens. They can step up on the big stage and help me and Nathan (Collins) out.”

Halliwell is hoping to call on the same underdog spirit that brought Cup joy for Leeds last year – a result he says was significant in England’s later success.

“That was the blueprint for the World Cup. That’s what (England coach) Tom Coyd was saying to us after the game: you’ve just given us the blueprint to win,” added Halliwell.

“We made a statement. Nobody thought we would win at all. They thought Catalans would absolutely hammer us. We wanted to prove them wrong and we want to do that again this time.”