St Helens skipper James Roby out to ‘savour’ what could be last Wembley visit
St Helens veteran captain James Roby will be spurred on by the thought that he could be playing at Wembley for the last time when he leads his side out against Castleford in Saturday’s Challenge Cup final.
The 35-year-old England hooker, who is the only Saints player to have won the Cup, played in the traditional schoolboy curtain-raiser at the old Wembley in 1997 and made history by scoring the first try at the new-look national stadium 10 years later.
This will be his fifth Cup final appearance but possibly his last as he reaches the twilight of his distinguished career.
“I know this could be my last chance and I’m going to try my best to savour it, but at the same time I don’t want to enjoy it too much because I’ve got a job to do,” Roby told a press conference.
“It’s fair to say that, at the back end of my career, you never really know many more finals you’re going to get to, so you’ve got to make the most of it.”
Roby helped his home-town club complete a hat-trick of Cup final victories with a 28-16 win over Hull in 2008 and never dreamt that, 13 years on, he would be still waiting for his next winners’ medal.
“As a young player, I came into a team that was very successful and I probably took success for granted,” he said.
“We were riding that crest of a wave for a few years and I just thought this was going to continue.
“We’re aware we’ve not won this one for a number of years, it’s in the back of everybody’s minds. We’ve put ourselves in a strong position to accomplish that and we’ve got to finish it off now.”
Roby’s men lost to Warrington in the 2019 final, but he is hoping his side’s back-to-back Grand Final triumphs since then can help get them over the line this time.
“That experience should help you in theory and I’d like to think that will apply to us at the weekend,” he said.
Saturday’s match has been designated by the Government as a pilot event in the battle with Covid-19, so 45,000 fans will be allowed to attend and Roby says that has added to the excitement.
“It’s going to be amazing,” he said. “It’s been great just getting the 4,000 we’ve been allowed here at the stadium, but to go down to Wembley and play in front of 10 times that, it will be such a refreshing change.
“It’s going to be brilliant for us as players and we’ll really feed off the atmosphere.”
St Helens coach Kristian Woolf says scrum-half Theo Fages and prop Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook will return to the starting line-up after being rested for last Friday’s league game at Wakefield and front rower Matty Lees played himself into contention after making a satisfactory return from a broken ankle in that match.
“We’re very close, there’s probably one decision we need to make a final decision on,” Woolf said. “I think the majority of the squad picks itself.
“The fact that guys like Joel Thompson and Matty Lees were able to get some really good minutes in at the weekend puts them into contention and it makes the last decision a little bit difficult.
“I’d certainly rather be in that position where we’re getting to make choices rather than wondering who we’re going to put in there.”