Skipper James Roby hit the nail on the head when he described Saints’ glamorous sixth round Ladbrokes Challenge Cup against Castleford Tigers at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle on Saturday as a ‘dog-eat-dog’ contest.
Two of Super League’s most adventurous clubs - both renowned for their off-the-cuff approach - go toe-to-toe in an 80-minute showdown arguably fit to grace Wembley itself.
It’s a venue where St Helens last took centre stage in 2008 when defeating Hull FC 28-16 and one has to turn the clock back to the 1985/86 season to discover the previous occasion classy Cas lifted the coveted trophy - a nail-biting 15-14 victory over Hull KR.
“People keep telling me it is a long time since a team of St Helens stature - and with a reputation for winning trophies - haven’t graced Wembley,” said 32-year-old Roby, who is a three-times Challenge Cup winners himself (2006/07/08).
He added: “There is no cast-iron guarantee this will be our year but we will be taking each game as it comes, turning up with the right attitude and hopefully producing the goods on the day.
“We know how difficult a task we face at Cas where we lost 53-10 in the same stage of the competition 12 months ago. but now I feel we are probably in a better place than we were back then.
“Everyone is playing with a smile on their faces, confidence is high in the camp and all we want is that to continue in the weeks ahead.”
Saints will be guaranteed the backing of a large army of fans and that can be the difference between winning and losing.
“More fans are watching us away from home than in recent years and this will add to what will be an electric atmosphere on a tightly packed ground reminiscent of the old Knowsley Road.”
St Helens have no further injuries ahead of the War of the Roses battle and Aussie full back Ben Barba, who did not quite make last week’s Super League clash against the Catalans Dragons due to a neck injury, will return to the squad which will be announced on Thursday.
“Ben still felt a little sore from the injury he picked up at Salford and I didn’t feel the need to risk him against the French club but he will be fit for the cup tie,” said head coach Justin Holbrook.
Cas, on the other hand, will be without England international scrum half Luke Gale who recently underwent kneecap surgery.
Former Bradford Bulls captain and Lance Todd Trophy winner Robbie Hunter-Paul will be joined by Ladbrokes Challenge Cup winner Nathan McAvoy on Sunday for the quarter-final draw.
Hunter-Paul played in five Challenge Cup finals during his career, lifting the trophy twice with Bradford in 2000 and 2003 and was awarded the Lance Todd trophy in 1996 after scoring a hat-trick in the Bulls defeat to Saints at Wembley.
McAvoy played alongside Hunter-Paul in the 2000 final at Murrayfield, scoring a spectacular try in Bradford’s 24-18 victory over Leeds Rhinos.
Both former players are taking part in this year’s UK Red Ride to Wembley, which will see 26 participants cycle over 300 off-road miles from Old Trafford to the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup final in August, raising funds for Rugby League Cares.
The draw will be broadcast live from the Halliwell Jones Stadium on BBC Two following the Warrington Wolves v Toronto Wolfpack game on Sunday, May 13.
The eight winning sides from the sixth round will be entered in to the draws, with all quarter-final ties scheduled to take place over the weekend of June 2-3.
All quarter-final fixtures will be televised, with two fixtures selected to be shown on BBC 1 and BBC Two, while Sky Sports will also broadcast two games.