St Helens prop Alex Walmsley takes strength from 2019 defeat ahead of cup final
St Helens’ England prop Alex Walmsley says his team’s surprise defeat at Wembley two years ago will stand them in good stead when they take on Castleford in Saturday’s Betfred Challenge Cup final.
It is 13 years since the last of Saints’ 12 cup final victories and Walmsley is one of 12 survivors from that 18-4 loss to Warrington in 2019.
“I think there’s a different feel this time around,” he said after the team’s captain’s run at Wembley. “We’re probably much more relaxed.
“I think having been here before and experienced the occasion, it helps with the preparation.
“When you think back to 2019, I think there was a big monkey on our back in terms of actually getting to Wembley.”
Walmsley also believes St Helens’ back-to-back Super League Grand Final triumphs demonstrated their ability to rise to the big occasion which could be crucial against the Tigers, who have not won the cup since 1986.
“I suppose there was that tag of us not being a team who can do it on the big stage and win those big games,” he said.
“We now know what it takes to win big games and how tough it is but there’s one thing knowing what it takes and another actually going out and delivering.
“Our mind is certainly on making sure we’re prepared to deliver on what’s going to be a tough game.
“They’re rested and probably in peak condition and they’ve a full-strength squad.
“We’re in a different position. We’ve been playing and probably a bit more battered and bruised than them. It’s going to be a huge challenge.”
The teams will also have to overcome potentially-stifling conditions with temperatures set to soar in the middle of the pitch.
“It wouldn’t be Wembley if it wasn’t 30 degrees would it?” Walmsley said.
“It’s going to be hot but we’ve trained today at a similar time to when we’ll be playing tomorrow so we’ve got a good idea of what the conditions are going to be like.
“It’s going to be a challenge but we like these tough conditions. When it’s nice and dry it makes for a fast game and both teams like to play fast so I’m sure it will be great occasion.”