11 hours ago
Powergen Challenge Cup Final
St Helens coach Ian Millward has named his team for Saturday's Powergen Challenge Cup Final against Wigan Warriors.
The Saints coach has included Ade Gardner to his starting line-up, rewarding the young winger for his recent form, which included two tries in the Semi-Final win over Warrington Wolves.
Samoan winger Dom Feaunati, who returned from suspension last Friday against Wakefield, is named on the bench, alongside another player coming back from a ban, Jon Wilkin.
Prop Ricky Bibey will also start among the substitutes against his former club, having also come off the bench for Wigan in their 2002 Challenge Cup Final win over Saints.
Second rower Lee Gilmour returns to The Millennium Stadium 12 months after winning the Challenge Cup there against Leeds Rhinos.
Millward was keen to reward his players for their form this season, following an impressive start which has seen them lost just once in Tetley's Rugby Super League as well as defeat a host of leading sides in this competition.
"There are always going to be some people disappointed, but we have been playing very well and the players have been picking themselves," said Millward.
"I'm very happy with the squad and proud of the way the players have played. They deserve to be at that occasion."
Wilkin was handed a four-match ban by the RFL's Disciplinary Committee following his dismissal for a high tackle at Bradford on Easter Monday, but he came through a Senior Academy game unscathed on Sunday.
"He played a full game and I thought he did well. I was open on who I was going to have on the bench until then.
"We played Tim Jonkers, who is also returning (from injury) and Maurie Fa'asavalu, but Jon has trained very hard and was playing well before he was out and we thought he deserved an opportunity."
Millward admits that he was keen to confirm his line-up early in the week to allow his squad, and supporters, to savour the occasion.
He said: "It gives the media a chance to promote the game, it gives the players the chance to enjoy the opportunity - because it's a fantastic week - and the fans have already made their statement by making it a sell-out.
"It gives everyone an opportunity to really enjoy the occasion and project how great a game Rugby League is."
St Helens team Paul Wellens; Ade Gardner, Willie Talau, Martin Gleeson, Darren Albert; Jason Hooper, Sean Long; Nick Fozzard, Keiron Cunningham, Keith Mason, Chris Joynt, Lee Gilmour, Paul Sculthorpe (c). Subs: Jon Wilkin, Dominic Feaunati, Ricky Bibey, Mark Edmondson. Travelling Reserves: Tim Jonkers, Ian Hardman -------- Ian Millward believes that consistency will be the key to their success in Saturday's Powergen Challenge Cup Final against Wigan Warriors.
Saints have disposed of fellow Tetley's Rugby Super League sides Bradford Bulls, Leeds Rhinos, Hull FC and Huddersfield on their way to Cardiff.
Their only Super League defeat came when an under-strength team took on Bradford on Easter Monday.
Saints have produced a string of superb displays throughout the campaign, and Millward feels his side will lift the Challenge Cup if they maintain that level of performance in Cardiff on Saturday.
"I remember Shaun McRae's comment after we played Hull in the first game of the season," says Millward.
"He said it was one of the best Saints performances he has seen in the first half, and the following week against Bradford (in the Challenge Cup) I thought we were outstanding.
"We have been outstanding all season; we have kept our level of consistency, we have played really well and the win against Leeds a fortnight ago, when we put 50 past them, wasn't a one-off.
"We have been doing that week-in, week-out, and all we have got to do is maintain what we are doing and we will win.
"The issue is not us playing well now, the issue is that we have been playing well all year and training really hard since November.
"Whatever we have got out of the season so far is a reflection of what we have been putting in.
"We have been ready to go for a long time, and that's why we can feel pretty secure in what we are doing at present." -------- Wigan Warriors' Stephen Wild has a double incentive as he looks to secure a place in their team for Saturday's Powergen Challenge Cup Final against St Helens.
Wild, 23, has played in every game for Wigan this season except their Challenge Cup tie with Widnes.
He has found himself filling in at centre and even on the wing at times, as well as in his normal second row position, and a try in the Challenge Cup Semi-Final win over Warrington was just reward for his efforts.
However, the return of David Hodgson to fitness and Martin Aspinwall's potential recovery from a hamstring tear means that Wild could miss out on a place in their team for the Cardiff showdown.
That brings back memories of two years ago for Wild, who burst onto the scene in 2002 but was only 18th man for their Challenge Cup Final win over Saints at Murrayfield.
"I have watched them win the Challenge Cup and I've seen them lose two Grand Finals too since I came into the senior squad, so I've seen the highs and the lows" he told League Correspondent
"This year, I am looking to go one better and get a game.
"It doesn't get much bigger; a sell-out crowd, playing St Helens and a Cup Final. You can't ask for anything more, especially as a local lad.
"These are the days you dream of, and hopefully we can come out this weekend and win the Cup as well."
Wild, who also appeared for Lancashire in 2002, saw his progress slowed last season by badly injured ankle ligaments, which restricted him to just 12 games.
"Last year was disappointing, a real low for me," he admits. "But this year I have managed to get plenty of game time and I can stay injury-free.
"As a club, we've had a lot of injuries but I didn't expect to be at centre.
"As long as I am playing at the moment, it doesn't really matter where I am. I enjoy the second row but I am starting to enjoy playing at centre now.
"It doesn't bother me where I play; the role are quite similar and it is having just confidence to play at centre, which I am getting now."
Wild has probably the most siblings of any player in Super League, as one of ten children, and he admits that securing tickets for Saturday's game for his family has been a challenge.
"I've got five brothers and four sisters, so there are ten of us altogether," he said. "It costs a bit at ?50 a time!
"Some of them will be there, not all of them though. My mum and brothers will be coming down, the rest will be watching on TV."
Wild is hoping that they finally get to see him in action on the field, rather than in the stands.