With eleven straight wins and a three point lead at the top of the Betfred Championship, the in form Toronto Wolfpack are on the road again, heading to the North of England to take on Super League giants Warrington Wolves in round six of the Challenge Cup.
The Wolfpack have a chance to make history, with a win in Lancashire securing them a place in the quarter finals of the competition for the first time, meaning rugby league’s new boys will be only two wins from Wembley.
In their way is by far the toughest opponent Toronto have faced to date. Warrington, the other set of Wolves running around in rugby league in the Northern Hemisphere, are the only side close to matching Toronto’s current run of form, with nine consecutive wins, and will pose an enormous challenge for the Wolfpack in this historic battle of the Wolves.
The Wire are one of the most historical clubs in the game. They were originally formed back in 1976 and were one of the original founding members of the Northern Football Union in 1895. Warrington is a town steeped in rugby league history and the club has a very proud presence in the sport’s foundations.
Warrington are no stranger to Challenge Cup glory. They won their first crown way back in 1905 and have gone on to win the coveted cup on eight occasions in total. Recently, they have tasted success at Wembley three times in the last nine years and will be looking to return to the capital of the UK this year.
After a disappointing league campaign in 2017, and under the tutelage of new coach Steve Price, the Wolves have found a new lease of life and are currently one of the most dominant sides in the top flight, making them the ultimate challenge for Paul Rowley’s men.
The men in primrose and blue are littered with stars right across their team. England international Stefan Ratchford and former Man of Steel Daryl Clark make up just a small part of the exceptional spine Warrington have at their disposal, with some of the form half backs in the game in their ranks.
The clash throws up a number of mouth-watering encounters as old teammates are pitted against each other in a sudden death arena. Wolfpack Vice Captain Ashton Sims returns to the Halliwell Jones for the first time since leaving Warrington and will be looking to lead his side from the front against a team led by the tireless England front Rower Chris Hill.
Looking ahead to the game, Rowley was under no illusions of the scale of the challenge facing his players, but remained confident in their ability after a near perfect last two months of results. He said:
“We’ve put together some really good performances recently but the challenge for now is consistency and improving throughout the season and we have the squad now that is strong throughout with competition in every position which will bring out the best in our players.
“I’m delighted but we’re going to have to be very, very good to get anything against Warrington; they are an excellent side.
“I know they (Warrington) will be respectful of us, they know what we are capable of and we’ll certainly be going there with a spring in our step, but it’ll be nice to be the underdog for once.”
The Wolfpack will be showcased on the BBC for the first time in the UK, as well as Sportsnet in Canada, in a big arena and an event that has a real buzz about it this week. This is something that Rowley was sure his side would relish. He continued:
“We want to put our best foot forward and enjoy the atmosphere. It’ll be a great thing for the club and our supports for us to be on this stage and on the BBC so we’re looking forward to it.”
Despite his believe in his players to cause an upset, Rowley was quick to highlight the threats of their Super League opponents, and was certain Toronto would have to perform to the highest level this week. He added:
“Warrington have England international Kevin Brown on one edge and Tyrone Roberts on the other and they are bang in form at the moment; they have won nine games in a row.
“It’s going to be a very difficult challenge. They have strike all over the field and it’s going to be a big game for us.
“I know what my team can do, I have confidence in them and we will go there with belief and have a trust and understanding amongst our team. It’ll be a big occasion; you get one crack at it in the cup.”
The Wolfpack boss looks set to field his strongest possible 17 for the clash of the Wolves, with a number of ex-Warrington players chomping at the bit to represent Toronto against their old side. Rowley said:
“We’ve got a few ex-Warrington players in our team and we’ve got a really healthy squad so we’re coming into the game in a good place, it’s going to be a great game.”
Toronto Wolfpack 19 Man Squad:
3 Greg Worthington
5 Liam Kay
6 Josh McCrone
7 Ryan Brierley
9 Bob Beswick
10 Ashton Sims
11 Andrew Dixon
13 Jack Bussey
15 Adam Sidlow
17 Blake Wallace
19 Adam Higson
21 Olsi Krasniqi
23 Nick Rawsthorne
24 Cory Paterson
28 Sam Hopkins
29 Jake Emmitt
31 Gareth O’Brien
32 Darcy Lussick
33 Chase Stanley