Leeds coach Brian McDermott prepared to break hearts

Leeds coach Brian McDermott knows that he will have to break a couple of players' hearts when he announces his 17 for Saturday's Challenge Cup final.

"I have some tough calls to make," said McDermott, as he waits on the fitness of Kallum Watkins and Carl Ablett.

"I'll have to break hearts," McDermott told BBC 5 live's George Riley. "It's the unfortunate part of the job I do."

Both players were injured in Saturday's 32-22 loss at Harlequins, but have been named in the provisional 19-man squad.

Ablett, who has an ankle injury, is expected to have recovered to face Wigan after what McDermott describes as a "niggle".

But the prognosis may not be quite as bright for the luckless Watkins, who was carried off in agony at The Stoop with a knee injury. And, if he does not make it, then Lee Smith may deputise.

Smith scored Leeds' last-minute try to knock Wigan out when the two sides last met in the Challenge Cup at the quarter-final stage at a soaking wet Headingley last May.

But, having got the chance, along with Ali Lauiti'iti and Brett Delaney, to force himself into the 17 with a rare appearance on Saturday at The Stoop, only Delaney emerged from the game with any credit.

And, in any case, McDermott is still hopeful that Watkins will be fit, admitting: "If he continues at the rate he is, there's a good chance."

"I've not had the best of luck," said Watkins. "I just fell on it awkwardly and banged it into the ground.

"It's my bad knee. It's a case of waiting and hoping.

"I'm 20 and I've had a few injuries but it's a learning process for me as a person and a player as well. It's life."

Kallum Watkins
Kallum Watkins has missed 12 weeks of this season with a wrist injury

England skipper Jamie Peacock, who missed last year's final with a knee injury, will definitely return after being rested for the defeat by Quins.

Fellow forwards Ryan Bailey and Jamie Jones-Buchanan, who sat it out with Achilles and rib injuries respectively, will also be back in contention.

"Peacock was the only one that was precautionary," said McDermott, "although he has done some miles on that knee already.

"It was the right thing to do but the other two needed resting. They needed a week off but they should be OK for Saturday."

The Leeds coach is preparing for his first taste of Wembley, and his first final as a Super League coach.

But the one time that the former Bradford forward did get his hands on the trophy, as a Bulls player, was against Leeds in 2000.

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