Challenge Cup Final preview
Leeds Rhinos v Hull Kingston Rovers
Wembley Stadium, London
Saturday, 11.30pm (AEST)
One of the most iconic rugby league competitions in the world reaches its 2015 conclusion late Saturday night Australian time when the defending champion Leeds Rhinos meet Hull Kingston Rovers in the Challenge Cup Final at famed Wembley Stadium.
More than 80,000 fans will converge on London's sporting cathedral to see if in their first Challenge Cup Final in close to 30 years Rovers can pull off a mighty upset against a Leeds team who have qualified for their fifth final in the past six years.
In order to break down the chances of both teams and where the game will be won NRL.com has enlisted the expert insight of Peter Smith from the Yorkshire Evening Post and Gareth Westmorland from the Hull Daily Mail.
"Leeds have beaten Rovers twice this year - though both were close contests - and are on a six-match winning streak, including victories over St Helens, Warrington and Wigan," Smith says.
"Hull KR finished the regular season in 10th spot, 15 points behind Rhinos. They are a powerful attacking team and have beaten Wigan and Warrington in the Cup this year, but their defence is suspect and they will struggle with both the occasion and Leeds' power and pace."
Canberra Raiders hooker Josh Hodgson is a former captain of Hull KR and said their first final since 1986 when they were defeated 15-14 by Castleford is an historic occasion for the club.
"It's a massive game for them and it's the first time we've been in the Challenge Cup since the '80s," Hodgson told Raiders TV this week.
"For those who don't know [in Australia] it's a huge game and I think they've sold around 70,000 tickets for Wembley Stadium.
"To all the boys at home, the best of luck and you all deserve it."
Familiar Faces: Former NRL stars are littered throughout both teams although Hull KR have by far the greatest concentration. Former Titan Albert Kelly has been under an injury cloud in the build-up but is expected to play while former Knights winger Josh Mantellato was man of the match in Hull's semi-final win over Warrington. Former Eels flyer Ken Sio has scored 15 tries on the wing this season and the team will be led onto Wembley by Tyrone McCarthy who scored a try for the Northern Pride in their State Championship win on NRL Grand Final day last year.
Adam Cuthbertson has been a revelation in his first season for Rhinos with his 115 offloads a team high while Joel Moon and Brett Delaney have been fixtures of the Leeds team for the past few seasons. Former Shark and Panther Paul Aiton will miss the final due to injury.
Road to Wembley
Leeds: def. Huddersfield 48-16; def. Hull FC 24-6; def. St Helens 24-14
Hull KR: def. Wigan 16-12; def. Catalans 32-26; def. Warrington 26-18
Watch Out Hull KR: "It is tough to pick a key player from a team packed with them, but Saturday will be Kevin Sinfield's seventh and last appearance in a Challenge Cup final, all as captain. His game management is second to none in the European competition and he is a master of the big occasion. With Paul Aiton ruled out due to a broken arm, Sinfield may take the acting-half role early on, until Rob Burrow comes off the bench to take over at hooker." Peter Smith
"In what will be his final Wembley appearance, Jamie Peacock is arguably in the form of his life as he nears his career end. Facing the team which will employ him after retirement as football director, he'll be desperate to just get the job done. Making the metres forward and punishing the Robins defence could hold the key to unlocking Rovers." Gareth Westmorland
Watch Out Leeds: "Question marks remain over his fitness but if Albert Kelly does take to the field, he can completely win the Cup with one leg. The former Gold Coast Titan has taken the English game by storm and he was mercurial in Hull KR's semi-final win over Warrington. Can he do the same against Leeds?" Gareth Westmorland
"Halfback Albert Kelly hasn't played since a commanding performance in the shock semi-final win over Warrington Wolves. Rovers' management say he is "touch and go" for Wembley due to a knee injury, but it will be a surprise if he doesn't play. Kelly has been in sensational form for Rovers this year and he scored two tries in the Super League Round 1 loss to Leeds, when his kicking game caused Rhinos all manner of problems." Peter Smith
What Are The Odds: Leeds $1.16, Hull KR $5. All the money is coming for the defending champions with Sportsbet reporting that head-to-head betting is running in favour of Leeds to the tune of 10:1. There has been more money wagered on the Rhinos to win by 13+ than on all of the other margins options combined and many punters are taking the Leeds half-time/full-time double at the relatively short odds of $1.40. Leeds winger Ryan Hall ($8.50) is the best backed player to score the first try of the game although former Bronco and Warrior Joel Moon has been backed at longer odds of $15. Former Eel Ken Sio and former Knight Josh Mantellato are both $15 to be first try-scorer.
Lance Todd Trophy winner?
Leeds captain Kevin Sinfield is the $4.50 favourite to win the Lance Todd Trophy as man of the match with former Titan Albert Kelly the shortest-priced Rovers player at $11. NRL stars to have won the Lance Todd Trophy previous include Brett Hodgson (2012), Jeff Lima (2011), Michael Monaghan (2009), Graham Eadie (1987) and Brett Kenny (1985).
Smith's tip: Kevin Sinfield (Leeds)
Westmorland's tip: Josh Mantellato (Hull KR)
Smith's tip: Leeds by 18 points
Westmorland's tip: Hull KR by eight points
Televised: Fox Sports – Live from 11.30pm