Wheelchair Challenge Cup final: Leeds Rhinos ready for Catalans Dragons test

James Simpson
James Simpson is looking to lead Leeds to a third straight Challenge Cup final win
Betfred Wheelchair Challenge Cup final
Venue: Allam Arena, Hull Date: Saturday, 25 June Kick-off: 14:30 BST Coverage: Live on BBC Sport platforms

Leeds Rhinos player-coach James Simpson is expecting a tough match when they face Catalans Dragons in the Wheelchair Challenge Cup final on Saturday.

The holders play the French side at the Allam Arena, with the game live on BBC iPlayer, BBC Sport website and app.

"They've dominated the French league for years and their starting line-up will all be internationals," he told BBC Radio Leeds.

"We knew they wouldn't enter if they didn't think they had a strong side."

He added: "It's brilliant that they're here and it's great in a World Cup year to face some of the players that we'll face later in the year.

"With France inventing this variation of the sport they've always been slightly ahead of the curve on wheelchair rugby and everything they do is built around being successful."

The Rhinos are looking to win the trophy for the third successive time, having done so in 2019 and 2021, with 2020's competition scrapped because of the coronavirus pandemic.

They beat les Dracs, who are competing in the competition for the first time, 8-0 in the round-robin section of qualifying for the final, also held in Hull.

That was the French side's only defeat, as they went on to beat Wigan in the semi-finals, while Leeds reached the showpiece with victory over Halifax Panthers.

"We're trying not to think about the three years on the bounce. We'd be absolutely buzzing if we did it, we really want it," Simpson said.

"With Leeds we're used to having adversity thrown at us in one way or another. We lost every game for about three years before we made a final and then we lost the first two Challenge Cup finals we made. It's in our blood to deal with adversity.

"In lockdown we were meeting up on grass pitches to throw balls around because that was all we could do. But we did what we could to be ready."

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