Warriors prepare for battle
Wigan looking to halt Rhinos' charge
By Simon Dilger. Last Updated: 31/05/08 2:15pm
Wigan will be looking to exorcise the ghosts of last year's heartbreaking Challenge Cup semi-final exit at the hands of Catalans Dragons this weekend.
"I think we were looking forward to playing at Wembley before we got Catalans out of the road, so we definitely won't be doing that again."
Phil Bailey Quotes of the week
The Warriors travel to Headingley on Saturday for a last-eight showdown against Super League leaders Leeds.
Last year Wigan were hot favourites to take on St Helens in the final, having dismissed the Rhinos in the fifth round of the competition.
But they suffered a shock 37-24 defeat by the Dragons to deny them an appearance in the first final back at the new Wembley.
And 10 months on, Australian second row forward Phil Bailey admitted the experience still hurts.
"It was devastating and a lot of blokes who played in that game are here still," he said.
"It does still hurt. So many Wigan people had already bought their tickets.
"I think we were looking forward to playing at Wembley before we got Catalans out of the road, so we definitely won't be doing that again.
"That's the thing about Challenge Cup footie. Look at Warrington. They're a quality side and they're out already.
"To be still in it at this stage, it's anyone's ball game. I think that's what makes it so exciting.
"You can have poor Super League form but end up winning the Challenge Cup."
Leeds, who have a six-point lead at the top of Super League, are the bookies favourites to lift the cup at Wembley on August 30.
But the Rhinos will not be resting on their laurels against the club who dumped them out in 2007 and are the side responsible for their last defeat - a 14-10 Super League victory at Headingley in April.
One man who will be working extra hard to ensure that Leeds do not slip, yet again, on the same banana skin is the outgoing Gareth Ellis, who is desperate to end his English career with a first trip to Wembley.
Ellis is due to join Sydney outfit Wests Tigers on a three-year contract at the end of the season and the Great Britain forward would love nothing more than to arrive Down Under with a Challenge Cup winner's medal.
He said "I won't be playing in any Challenge Cups for a while so it would be great if I could end my final year at Leeds with a winner's medal.
"It's the only one I'm missing at the minute and it would be fantastic to win at Wembley but that's a long way off.
"Wigan are in the way and we are going to have to be on top of our game to get past them.
"It was disappointing last year to be knocked out. Wigan have turned us over on a number of occasions.
"They are a very good side and they seem to have the method of beating us of late.
"On all the occasions we've met, I personally have not played that well and it's something I'm keen to change."
Leeds will be without second-rower Ali Lauitiiti, who picked up a knee injury in last week's league win at Bradford.
And, just three days after flying into the country, Australian utility back Cameron Phelps is handed his debut for the visitors.
The 23-year-old former Canterbury Bulldogs player took part in his first training session yesterday and has been included in coach Brian Noble's initial 19-man squad.
"I feel good," he said. "It's my first time in the UK and I'm very excited.
"I aim to show Brian I'm ready to go. Anywhere he wants to put me, I'll stick my hand up.
"If we make it all the way through, it would be amazing to play in front of 90,000 people at Wembley."
Leeds Rhinos: Brent Webb, Scott Donald, Keith Senior, Lee Smith, Danny McGuire, Rob Burrow, Kylie Leuluai, Matt Diskin, Jamie Peacock, Gareth Ellis, Kevin Sinfield, Ryan Bailey, Nick Scruton, Carl Ablett, Jordon Tansey, Ryan Hall, Luke Burgess, Danny Williams, Simon Worrall
Wigan Warriors: Richard Mathers, Mark Calderwood, Darrell Goulding, George Carmont, Pat Richards, Trent Barrett, Thomas Leuluai, Stuart Fielden, Mickey Higham, Iafeta Paleaaesina, Gareth Hock, Phil Bailey, Liam Colbon, Andy Coley, Harrison Hansen, Michael McIlorum, Paul Prescott, Cameron Phelps, Joel Tomkins