Women

York and St Helens players collide with Liv Wood tackled by a plethora of Saints defenders
St Helens and York are set for another huge game in their fledgling rivalry
Dates: Saturday, 22 & Sunday, 23 July Venues: Halliwell Jones Stadium, Warrington (Sat), Headingley, Leeds (Sun)
Kick-offs: 11:45 BST (Sat), 14:15 BST (Sun) Coverage: Live on BBC red button (Sat only), BBC iPlayer & BBC Sport app.

The chance to make history as the first women to play in a Wembley Challenge Cup final is a massive inspiration for the 2023 semi-finalists, says St Helens skipper Jodie Cunningham.

Cunningham’s Saints, holders of the trophy having beaten fellow last-four side Leeds at Elland Road last season, play league leaders York on Saturday.

Leeds, who won the Super League Grand Final in 2022, play Wigan on Sunday.

“It’s huge for the women’s game,” Cunningham told BBC Radio Merseyside.

“The opportunity to get to Wembley… all four teams who are in the semis this weekend will be focused on the semi-finals but they’ll definitely be thinking about the reward at the end of it.

“It’s added motivation for the teams. You don’t need motivating for a semi-final but, personally, I have been thinking about this game for a long time.”

The rivalry with York, which has grown in intensity given the rapid rise of the Valkyrie under Lindsay Anfield, will again throw up a heavyweight match-up at Warrington’s Halliwell Jones Stadium.

Both semis are double-headers with the men’s fixtures, and Saturday’s opener has plenty of stellar match-ups in particular.

Saints stars like Cunningham, Emily Rudge and Vicky Whitfield are all England team-mates of York’s Sinead Peach, Tara-Jane Stanley and Liv Wood to name but three apiece.

To add extra spice, York can make it a Wembley double if their women’s side win their tie and the men’s team beat Batley in their 1895 Cup semi-final.

It could therefore be a special weekend for Valkyrie centre Sade Rihari and her partner Ata Hingano, who plays for the Knights men’s team.

“We want it so much, for him to play and myself to play would be something to remember for a lifetime,” Rihari told BBC Radio York.

“It would be a memory we could pass on to our kids and their grandkids that mum and dad played at Wembley, so hopefully the boys win their semi on Sunday and we get the win as well.”

  • Men’s Challenge Cup: Walmsley & Saints set for Leigh cup ‘bell-ringer’

No complacency from Leeds despite recent Wigan win

Leeds Rhinos need only go back to 2019 to remember their last Challenge Cup success, when they beat Castleford at Bolton.

Their impressive draw with York last weekend was evidence of their competitiveness, as was a 52-0 thumping of Sunday’s opponents Wigan in the previous round of league games.

Leeds and Wigan players tussle in the Nines competition
Leeds and Wigan met recently in the league and in the final of the Nines competition

However, no complacency will be allowed by Leeds, according to England utility back Caitlin Beevers.

“As a group we’ve made sure that’s out of the pipeline,” Beevers told BBC Radio Leeds.

“We don’t consider that, we don’t look at past results because each game is a new one.

“They’ve got some players coming back and so do we, so it’s going to be a totally different game at a fantastic stadium in front of a big crowd.”

Wigan showed their knock-out prowess by getting to the final of the Nines competition earlier this season, coincidentally to be beaten by Leeds.

This is their first final-four appearance since 2018 and, like York, Wigan have the chance to make it a double as their counterparts take on Hull KR in the following men’s semi-final.

“It’s really big, being around the club there’s a real sense of excitement and togetherness,” said experienced centre Rachel Thompson, a former winner with Thatto Heath.

“The men are talking about us playing and we’re talking about them too, and it’s something that doesn’t happen every week.

“Hopefully the fans who come to watch the men will think we might as well watch the women as well, and hopefully can be an extra player for us.”

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