Saints strongly fancied to earn Wembley trip

St Helens are the strong favourites going into the first of this weekend’s Betfred Challenge Cup semi-finals to be held at the Leigh Sports Village this Saturday.

Sponsors Betfred make Saints the 4/11 favourites to become the first team to reach Wembley, with Hull priced at 5/2.

And Saints’ chances are boosted by the return of their two wingmen Tommy Makinson, who is set to make his 250th St Helens appearance, and Regan Grace.

To accommodate Makinson, Kevin Naiqama is likely to move back into his normal centre role, with Josh Simm probably dropping to the bench or to the four reserves.

Grace will resume on the left wing, meaning that last week’s hat-trick hero Jack Welsby is likely to switch to left centre, where he will replace Mark Percival, who has been left out of the 21-man squad after suffering a hamstring strain in last week’s 34-16 victory over Hull. Saints’ barnstorming forward Agnatius Paasi also left the field in that game with a tight hamstring, but he is likely to retain his place in the matchday squad.

Hull have been hit hard by the calf injury suffered by boom young forward Joe Cator, which has kept him out of coach Brett Hodgson’s 21-man squad, wth young fullback Connor Wynne replacing him, athough Wynne is unlikely to make the cut for the matchday 17.

Hull will miss Cator’s workrate and it is difficult to see how they can have any hope of improving by more than 18 points from last week’s result when St Helens appear stronger and Hull weaker than they were at the Totally Wicked Stadium.

However, it shouldn’t be forgotten that Hull defeated Wigan in the quarter-final after losing to them a week earlier in Super League, and they should certainly be capable of making some improvements on their disappointing showing last week.

But Saints have beaten Hull the last nine times the two clubs have met, with an 8-6 Super League victory in August 2017 being Hull’s most recent victory over their opponents this weekend.

The two teams have met 14 times before in the Challenge Cup,  with St Helens holding a 10-4 advantage,  including a 28-16 victory in 2008 at Wembley, which was the last time St Helens won the Challenge Cup.

Hull FC v St Helens

Saturday 2.30pm

21-man squads

HULL: 1 Jake Connor, 2 Bureta Faraimo, 3 Carlos Tuimavave, 4 Josh Griffin, 5 Mahe Fonua, 6 Josh Reynolds, 7 Marc Sneyd, 9 Danny Houghton, 10 Chris Satae, 11 Andre Savelio, 12 Manu Ma’u, 13 Ligi Sao, 14 Jordan Johnstone, 16 Jordan Lane, 17 Brad Fash, 19 Ben McNamara, 20 Jack Brown, 21 Adam Swift, 22 Josh Bowden, 24 Cameron Scott.

Outs: 15 Joe Cator,

Ins: 23 Connor Wynne

ST HELENS: 1 Lachlan Coote, 2 Tommy Makinson, 3 Kevin Naiqama, 5 Regan Grace, 6 Jonny Lomax, 7 Theo Fages, 8 Alex Walmsley, 9 James Roby, 11 Joel Thompson, 13 Morgan Knowles, 14 Sione Mata’utia, 15 Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, 16 Kyle Amor, 17 Agnatius Paasi, 18 Jack Welsby, 19 Aaron Smith, 20 Joe Batchelor, 21 Lewis Dodd, 22 Josh Simm, 25 Dan Norman, 30 Sam Royle

Outs: 4 Mark Percival, 29 Ben Davies

Ins: 2 Tommy Makinson, 5 Regan Grace

Last ten meetings:

St Helens 34, Hull FC 16 (SLR8, 28/5/21)

Hull FC 18, St Helens 32 (SLR3, 16/2/20)

Hull FC 6, St Helens 22 (SLR29, 13/9/19)

Hull FC 12, St Helens 40 (SLR21, 5/7/19)

St Helens 62, Hull FC 16 (SLR12, 22/4/19)

St Helens 38, Hull FC 12 (SLS8-R5, 14/9/18)

Hull FC 18, St Helens 34 (SLR21, 13/7/18)

St Helens 25, Hull FC 22 (CCQF, 3/6/18)

St Helens 26, Hull FC 12 (SLR10, 6/4/18)

St Helens 6, Hull FC 8 (SLS8-R2, 11/8/17)

Previous Challenge Cup meetings:

2018 (Quarter Final) St Helens 25 Hull FC 22

2016 (Round 6) St Helens 18 Hull FC 47

2008 (FINAL) Hull FC 16 St Helens 28

(at Wembley Stadium)

2005 (Semi-Final) Hull FC 34 St Helens 8

(at Galpharm Stadium, Huddersfield)

2004 (Quarter Final) St Helens 31 Hull FC 26

1997 (Round 5) St Helens 54 Hull FC 8

1990 (Round 2) Hull FC 12 St Helens 24

1984 (Round 2) St Helens 24 Hull FC 14

1981 (Round 2) St Helens 5 Hull FC 3

1976 (Round 1) Hull FC 3 St Helens 5

1969 (Round 1) Hull FC 3 St Helens 13

1961 (Semi-Final) Hull FC 9 St Helens 26

(at Odsal Stadium, Bradford)

1936 (Round 1) Hull FC 16 St Helens 6

1926 (Round 2) St Helens 7 Hull FC 10