Kristian Woolf hopes St Helens players rise to the big occasion against Hull
St Helens coach Kristian Woolf is banking on his side’s ability to rise to the big occasion when they take on Hull for a place at Wembley.
It is 13 years since Saints enjoyed the last of their 12 Challenge Cup successes but they are the bookmakers’ clear favourites to end their drought at Wembley on July 17.
The Black and Whites stand in the way of the back-to-back Super League champions in Saturday’s first semi-final at Leigh Sports Village.
“We’re all really well aware how long it’s been since St Helens have lifted the Challenge Cup,” Woolf said. “It would be a massive occasion for everyone but we understand it’s really tough challenge this Saturday.
“One thing that’s really impressed me about this group is how much they like a challenge and they’ve certainly shown over the last couple of years they know what it takes to win big games.
“When you’ve that in the room it certainly breeds confidence and it gives me confidence.”
St Helens lost in the cup to Warrington in Woolf’s first season at the club in 2020 but knocked out holders Leeds in the opening round this year and go into Saturday’s tie buoyed by an emphatic 34-16 win over Hull in the league just a week ago.
Hull bounced back from a league defeat by Wigan by knocking them out of the cup a week later and coach Brett Hodgson is banking on his charges to produce a repeat turnaround.
“We can use that to inspire us,” he said. “We’ve touched on that and learning from what we did against St Helens.
“We didn’t really play to our strengths last weekend. We were well off in terms of our intent at the start of the game and St Helens were excellent.
“We’re expecting more of that at the weekend so we need to be better.”
Woolf, who welcomes back both specialist wingmen Regan Grace and Tom Makinson, says his side will be prepared for an improved Hull side.
“We will learn just as much from the game as they will,” he said. “Obviously they will have some things they will try to be better at and so do we.
“I know that if we’re at our best, we become very hard to beat and that is what our aim is this week.”
Woolf will switch last week’s hat-trick hero Jack Welsby to centre in the absence of Mark Percival, while Andre Savelio is set to return to the Hull second row after sitting out last week’s game with a hamstring injury. Jordan Lane is set to take over at loose forward from Joe Cator, who is out with a calf problem.