Super League Grand Final Preview

St Helens v Leeds Saturday, 13 October Kick-off 1800 BST Old Trafford, Manchester

St Helens and Leeds Rhinos - the top two teams in Super League this season - meet in the Grand Final on Saturday.

Defending champions Saints included both Sean Long and Maurie Fa'asavalu in their 18-man squad on Friday ahead of the big match at Old Trafford.

Scrum-half Long and prop Fa'asavalu missed the play-off win over Leeds on 28 September with hamstring injuries.

Leeds boss Tony Smith, presiding over his final game in charge, has a fully-fit squad at his disposal.

Smith has included the same 17 that defeated Wigan 36-6 in their play-off eliminator at Headingley Carnegie last Friday plus Jordan Tansey as the Rhinos aim to win the Grand Final for the first time since 2004.

Leeds captain Kevin Sinfield believes victory in the final would provide a fitting tribute to departing coach Tony Smith.

After Saturday's finale against Saints, Smith leaves Leeds to take the Great Britain job on a full-time basis.

"We'd liked to send him off in the right way," Sinfield told BBC 5Live.

"There are other motivations - our families, the club, the fans - but let's hope we can make him happy."

Sinfield predicted Saturday's match would be a close match.

The last tie between the two teams saw Saints clinch their passage to Old Trafford with a 10-8 win.

The match was regarded as one of the most high-quality encounters between two Super League teams in recent years.

As the defeated team, Leeds had to subsequently defeat Wigan to secure their passage to Old Trafford but the Yorkshire club have beaten St Helens twice this season.

"It's two great teams and we've had three great games this year - they've all been pretty close," added Sinfield.

"The league table shows we're the best two sides in the competition and I think the fans have waited for Leeds and Saints final for a number of years.

"We're expecting a similar game - very tight and very tough.

"In the last game the defences were on top so hopefully we'll see a bit more flowing football but it's a final so both sides will be a bit cagey at the start.

"As the game opens up I'm sure it'll be a great advert for rugby league."

St Helens are hoping to complete a Challenge Cup, minor Premiership and Grand Treble for the second successive year.

The Lancashire team are also World Club Champions after their defeat of Brisbane Broncos in February.

Saints scrum-half Long has been training with the squad this week after missing more than a month with a hamstring injury.

But if he is unavailable to play Matty Smith, who played in the win over the Rhinos at Knowsley Road and is also in the 18, will again deputise.

However, with both Long and Fa'asavalu in his 18-man squad one of them will definitely figure in the 17 that contest the final.

"If Longy and Maurie are available, they'll play. If they don't make it, then we roll with what we've got," said Anderson.

As with Leeds boss Smith, his Saints counterpart Daniel Anderson is also predicting a close game.

"The fun is over and we are fully focused," said Anderson.

"Leeds are a very good team. Both teams are evenly matched and I'm sure they will be on Saturday night. It is a case of who handles it on the day."

St Helens: Wellens, Gardner, Gidley, Talau, Meli, Pryce, Long, Fozzard, Cunningham, Cayless, Gilmour, Wilkin, Roby, Bennett, Graham, Smith, Fa'asavalu, Flannery (one to be omitted).

Leeds: Webb, Donald, Toopi, Senior, Smith, McGuire, Burrow, Leuluai, Diskin, Peacock, Jones-Buchanan, Ellis, Sinfield, Lauitiiti, Bailey, Kirke, Ablett, Tansey (one to be omitted).

Facts and figures:

* St Helens have never lost in four previous Grand Finals, winning in 1999, 2000, 2002 and 2006. Leeds have played in three Grand Finals, winning in 2004 but losing in 1998 and 2005. This is the first meeting in the Super League Grand Final between the two clubs.

* St Helens forward Jason Cayless is among the elite few who have been Grand Final winners in England and Australia. He started at prop in the Sydney Roosters side that beat New Zealand Warriors 30-8 in the 2002 Australian Grand Final. He was also a loser in 2003 and 2004. Last year he was in the St Helens side that beat Hull FC 26-4 in the Super League Grand Final.

* St Helens utility back Leon Pryce will also be making a record-breaking seventh Grand Final appearance. In addition to his four winning appearances he was a loser with Bradford in 1999 and 2002.

* Pryce is also in with a chance of becoming the first player to win the Harry Sunderland Trophy with two different clubs after winning it with Bradford in 2005.

* Either Pryce or Saints full-back Paul Wellens could become the first player to win the Harry Sunderland Trophy and the Lance Todd Trophy in the same season. The duo were joint winners of the Challenge Cup final man-of-the-match award earlier this year.

* Leeds scrum-half Rob Burrow needs one try for a career century of touchdowns for the club. His total of 99 includes two hat-tricks in 208 appearances.

* Rhinos skipper Kevin Sinfield is on course to become the first Leeds player to play and score in every Cup and League match throughout a season.

Previous Grand Final results:

1998: Wigan 10-4 Leeds Old Trafford (Att: 43,553) 1999: St Helens 8-6 Bradford Old Trafford (50,717) 2000: St Helens 29-16 Wigan Old Trafford (58,132) 2001: Bradford 37-6 Wigan Old Trafford (60,164) 2002: St Helens 19-18 Bradford Old Trafford (61,138) 2003: Bradford 25-12 Wigan Old Trafford (65,537) 2004: Leeds 16-8 Bradford Old Trafford (65,537) 2005: Bradford 15-6 Leeds Old Trafford (65,537) 2006: St Helens 26-4 Hull FC Old Trafford (72,582)

Source: www.bbc.co.uk

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