|Venue: Wembley Stadium Date: Saturday, 17 October Kick-off: 15:00 BST Coverage: Watch on BBC One; listen on BBC Radio 5 Live sports extra, BBC Radio Leeds & BBC Radio Manchester; live text, radio & TV coverage on BBC Sport website and app.|
Salford duo Dan Sarginson and Jack Ormondroyd will miss out on Saturday’s Challenge Cup final against Leeds after testing positive for Covid-19.
While the pair continue to self-isolate, the Red Devils welcome Niall Evalds back from injury.
Leeds winger Tom Briscoe, who signed a contract extension with the Rhinos on Wednesday, is poised to feature in his fifth Challenge Cup final.
On-loan forward Bodene Thompson is ruled out because he is cup-tied.
Salford’s first Challenge Cup final appearance for 51 years has this week been overshadowed by the positive coronavirus tests returned by two players, their identities unknown until Salford named their 21-man squad on Thursday.
While Sarginson and Ormondroyd have been ruled out, both Lee Mossop and Mark Flanagan have been cleared to feature after initially returning inconclusive results.
After being retested, they were found to be negative and were allowed to rejoin the squad.
Salford said Sarginson and Ormondroyd “have shown exceptional professionalism and support for their team-mates” heading to Wembley.
Salford ‘will go nuts’ if Red Devils win the cup
If anyone knows what the supporters of Salford are feeling going into this game, it is head coach Ian Watson.
The 43-year-old supported, played for and is now coaching his boyhood team and would have been among the hordes that would usually be heading for the capital regardless of his current role.
Yet the outbreak of Covid-19 has not only delayed the season but also forced this game to be played behind closed doors, denying generations of fans the chance to see their team on the big stage.
“It’s what you’re brought up watching,” Watson said. “The Challenge Cup is special.
“I know people who have been going in their Salford shirts for 30 years, and we’ve not won one for so long, and I wouldn’t really be able to explain what it’d be like because it’s been so long since we won it.
“I think it’d be that big, everyone would go nuts in Salford.”
Boyhood fan Gale proud of Rhinos achievement
Much like Salford’s Kallum Watkins, Saturday’s final will be an especially poignant occasion for Rhinos skipper Luke Gale, who grew up a Leeds fan.
For many years it looked as though his opportunity with Leeds had passed by, having left after coming through the academy without making an appearance.
He did it the hard way, through spells at Doncaster, London, Bradford and Castleford, playing in a World Cup final for England before he was finally brought back to Headingley as a big-money signing for 2020.
“I was a Leeds fan growing up, so Kevin Sinfield and Danny McGuire were my heroes,” Gale told BBC Sport.
“As I go back to childhood memories, it’s quite surreal. It’s a dream come true, and leading the boys out on Saturday would be a massive privilege and a great honour.
“It’s what you dream of, getting to hold the Challenge Cup, and it’s an experience I will cherish.”
Leeds Rhinos (from): Walker, T Briscoe, Hurrell, Handley, Lui, Gale, Seumanufagai, Leeming, Prior, Mellor, Martin, Dwyer, L Sutcliffe, Myler, Cuthbertson, Oledzki, Smith, L Briscoe, Donaldson, A Sutcliffe, Holroyd.
Salford Red Devils (from): Evalds, Welham, Inu, Lolohea, Brown, Mossop, Lussick, Dudson, Lannon, Pauli, McCarthy, Ikahihifo, Burke, Yates, Atkin, Flanagan, Greenwood, Williams, Kear, Roberts, Watkins.