31st May 2019, 10:00 | ChallengeCup

Walmsley dreaming of Wembley

Walmsley dreaming of Wembley

Alex Walmsley admitted he turned his back on a move to Australia to keep alive his chances of playing at Wembley.

And the former Batley prop aims to take another step closer to realising that dream when St Helens take on Wakefield Trinity in Saturday’s Coral Challenge Cup quarter-final.

The 29-year-old rejected several approaches from NRL clubs in the wake of his successful World Cup with England in 2017 and committed his future to Saints up to the end of 2022.

St Helens take a break from the weekly grind of Betfred Super League which they lead by six clear points after 16 rounds to step up their bid to reach their first cup final since completing the last of their three successive triumphs in 2008.

Walmsley, who missed his club’s run to the semi-finals in 2018 due to a neck injury, said: “You never go stale in a season but there is a lot of rugby to be played in eight or nine months so the Challenge Cup adds a new impetus.

“It is knockout, do-or-die against a dangerous Wakefield side that are going to be tough and full of confidence.

“One of the reasons I didn’t go to Australia was that I want to win the Challenge Cup for the club, you want to go and play at Wembley don’t you?

“It has always been my ambition – hopefully we can get past Wakefield and we can give ourselves a good chance.”

Saints, the cup favourites, bring in Danny Richardson for injured scrum-half Theo Fages but are boosted by the return of England centre Mark Percival and forwards Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook and Luke Thompson for the first cup meeting between the clubs since 1991.

Walmsley is particularly looking forward to renewing his front-row partnership with Thompson, who burst onto the England scene in impressive fashion in his absence in 2018.

“I can’t wait,” he said. “Having said that, young Matty Lees has been fantastic.

“He’s been playing like a seasoned pro. He’s a fantastic competitor – you saw that with the England Knights when he took on the PNG boys, he’s such a tough player.

“But I am looking forward to having Luke back. He’s one of if not the best front rowers in the world, I’ve been saying that for a long time.”

Wakefield have lost in-form prop David Fifita with an ankle injury and centre Junior Sa’u is cup-tied but veteran scrum-half Danny Brough is back after a two-month lay-off with a broken hand to renew his partnership with skipper Jacob Miller.

“I’m  looking forward to getting some experience out there,” said Trinity coach Chris Chester. “We’ve got that spine back to how it was at the start of the year.”

In the absence of full-back or winger Max Jowitt, who fractured a thumb in the defeat by Catalans Dragons last Saturday, Chester could give a debut to teenager Jack Croft if threequarter Mason Caton-Brown fails a late fitness test.