Challenge Cup: Hull KR v Huddersfield Giants – Tony Smith says focus solely on semi-final

Tony Smith
Tony Smith was a Challenge Cup winner with Warrington and finalist with Leeds
Venue: Elland Road, Leeds Date: Saturday, 7 May Kick-off: 17:00 BST Coverage: Live on BBC Two, iPlayer and app, commentary on BBC local radio and live scores on the BBC Sport website.

Hull KR are purely focused on reaching the Challenge Cup final and the threat of opponents Huddersfield in Saturday’s semi-final, rather than any sentimental sub-plots, says head coach Tony Smith.

Smith confirmed last month he would be leaving the Robins at the end of the year, after his third season in charge.

The 55-year-old took Rovers to the Super League play-offs last season and could now reach a cup final this term.

“We’ll treat it exactly the same as any other game,” Smith told BBC Look North.

“I can say hand on heart, my responsibility is always as a coach to get the best out of my players and prepare them the best I can.

“Whether I’m here for 100 years or another 22 or whatever it is that I’ve been here, that’s always been the focus.

“My job is to help them and help them be as good as they can be, so it [my departure] has no significance.

“There are some players who will be finishing with us at the end of the year as well and none of that is a focus for us. It’s about the here and now, it’s about what we’re representing, and we’re representing this club and this badge.

“We want to do that in the best way possible, so, that’s me and always has been.”

Smith was a three-time Challenge Cup winner at Warrington and also took Leeds to the 2005 final, where they lost to Hull FC at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium.

While they have plenty of big-game players in the squad, such as National Rugby League Grand Final winner Shaun Kenny-Dowall and Fiji international Korbin Sims, there are only a few with the experience of winning this cup, such as England winger Ryan Hall.

Playing at Elland Road will also be a moment for players to savour, in front of a mixture of supporters for a triple-header that includes both semis and the women’s final.

“It’s great experience, I want them to enjoy that and the best way to do that is perform well,” Smith added.

“Having played sell-out games recently, against our black and white neighbours Hull FC and against Warrington, that was good experience for us.

“The current crop of players are preparing by playing in front of big crowds and noisy crowds, and you need to be able to soak up that atmosphere and use it in the best way possible.”

Shaun Kenny Dowall and Ryan Hall
Shaun Kenny-Dowall (right) and Ryan Hall will provide crucial experience for Hull KR

Watson wary of Smith cup pedigree

Opposite number Ian Watson, a former team-mate of Smith in Workington’s sole Super League campaign of 1996, is aware of the extra incentive that players could have to send the Rovers boss out a winner in his final year.

However, it is the cup pedigree that the Australian has in this competition that the Giants boss feels is more likely to give his side a problem.

“I know Tony will be focused on trying to get into this game,” Watson told BBC Look North. “He’s got a really good history in terms of Grand Finals and Challenge Cup finals, so he knows how to handle these games and handle his group.

“We’ve got to focus on our own performance, and make sure that our performances are at the right standards and doing our processes right. If we do that, then I’m confident we’ll get to the final.”

Watson reached a Grand Final and a Challenge Cup Final with Salford, and was brought to the John Smith’s Stadium to generate similar success.

This is the Fartowners’ first visit to the last four in 10 years, and the 45-year-old is satisfied with the progress made so far in just his second season with Huddersfield.

“We’re going well, we’re on the right path now,” he said. “From the middle of last season we started to get on to that path, some of the younger guys in the Huddersfield environment bought into what we were talking about and drove us to be better.

“And then this year, some of the experience we’ve had in, some of the winners in terms of Chris Hill, Theo Fages and Tui Lolohea, have come in and added to us.

“You put that on to some of the experience we have already like Chris McQueen who’s massive for us and Jermaine [McGillvary], Leroy [Cudjoe], Bruno [Michael Lawrence].

“There are a lot of players in there who have more things they want to achieve in the game but they understand what it takes to win big games.”

Brett Hodgson tries to tackle Vinnie Anderson
Not even Man of Steel-elect Brett Hodgson could deliver the cup in Giants’ last final appearance in 2009

Team news

Hull KR have back-rower Kane Linnett in their squad, despite him tearing a bicep in the win over Warrington and expecting to be out for up to eight weeks.

Cup-winning former St Helens full-back Lachlan Coote is out through concussion.

Huddersfield details to follow.

Hull KR (from): Crooks, Takairangi, Kenny-Dowall, Hall, Abdull, Parcell, King, Hadley, Linnett, Storton, Litten, Johnson, Sims, Minchella, Keinhorst, Dagger, Milnes, Maher, Ryan, Richards, Tate.

Huddersfield (from): TBC.

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