Leeds Rhinos Wheelchair will be going in search of their third consecutive Wheelchair Challenge Cup title this Saturday as they take on Catalans Dragons in the 2022 Final at the Allam Sports Centre in Hull.
The clash, which pits together a host of internationals from both the England and France sides who contested last weekend’s thrilling mid-season international, will kick off at 2.30pm and is set to be shown live on BBC Sport online.
After successfully defending their title with victory over Dartford-based Argonauts in last year’s Challenge Cup Final, the Rhinos will be looking to make even more history by becoming the first side to achieve a three-peat in the Wheelchair game.
Standing in their way will be French champions Catalans Dragons, who themselves could enter the record books by becoming the first French side to lift the Wheelchair Challenge Cup in their first season playing in the competition.
The two sides previously met in the qualifying tournament back in May, with the Rhinos claiming an 8-0 victory on their way to an unbeaten group stage before defeating Halifax Panthers in the Semi-Finals to book their spot in the Final.
England trio Tom Halliwell, Nathan Collins and Josh Butler will all line up in Leeds colours, whilst their international teammate Seb Bechara- who was named Player of the Match in the 62-48 win over France on Sunday- has been named in the Catalans squad.
Rhinos enter the final in good form having won their last four Wheelchair Super League fixtures in a row, and the side’s Player-Coach James Simpson believes his side are in perfect shape going into the contest.
“It’s going to a really tough test because we know how good their side is,” said Simpson. “They make up the majority of the French national side, so they’re all really experienced and there is tonnes of quality within their squad.
“We’ve been saying to each other that this is the game we want though, because we won the Super League last year and they won the French league so it’s a Challenge Cup Final, but also a bit of a World Club Challenge which is really exciting for the sport.
“We hold that big game experience thankfully and all our players have played live on TV in these big finals, so I feel like when the big crowds are there and the cameras are rolling I feel like as a team we can handle it well. Every player in that dressing room can block out the noise and hopefully do the job they need to do.
“I always say it’s not about how you start, it’s about how you finish and thankfully we’re peaking at the right time. It’s going to be a fight so it’s just a matter of hanging in there when things get tough and it’s not going our way. Everyone is up for the fight and we all want to come off that pitch knowing we’ve given everything for the club.”
The wheelchair game is an adaptation of the running game played by physically disabled and non-disabled athletes of all age with both men and women able to play in the same, making it the most inclusive sport of all. Hometown hero Jodie-Ann Boyd-Ward will also be featuring in her third Wheelchair Challenge Cup Final this weekend and says the players always relish any opportunity to play on the biggest stages to a live TV audience.
“It’s an amazing achievement to have our games broadcast live by the main broadcasters and it just shows how much the game is growing, especially in a World Cup year.”
“You go back a few years and games were being streamed on a mobile through Facebook or YouTube, to then be at that point when it’s live on BBC Sport is a huge achievement to show where we’ve come from as a sport and it’s definitely something for us to look forward to. We love playing in these Finals and it’s always an incredible experience for us players.
“Catalans are a team that we don’t see very often in the domestic game, but we got our first taste of competition against them in the qualifying festival and I fully expect them to come with some more surprises for us this time around.
“It’s exciting because France will be in my international group with Wales at the World Cup, so to see how their international players operate and their style of play will be really interesting.
Tickets for the match are available at £10 for adults and £5 for concessions and under 16s, and can be bought ahead of the game by clicking HERE. Customers who have pre-bought will need to show a copy of their confirmation email in exchange for a wristband at ticketing point.
Those wishing to buy tickets on the day can do so on the gate, where a card-only system will be in place to purchase. Unreserved seating and accessible seating will be in operation at the venue, with food and drink also available.
A clash between Gravesend Dynamite and Mersey Storm in the Wheelchair Trophy Final gets the day underway in a 11.30am kick off, with the doors open from 10.30am and ticket sales covering both games starting at 10am.