‘Moving the final from Wembley would ruin Challenge Cup’

Stefan Ratchford tackles Tom Davies
Stefan Ratchford tackles Tom Davies
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Wiganer Stefan Ratchford believes the Challenge Cup would be ‘ruined’ if the final was moved from Wembley.

Concerns of a poor crowd on Saturday - owing to Catalans’ involvement - has fuelled discussions among some fans and commentators about whether the 90,000-capacity London stadium was too big.

A year ago, the RFL admitted it had considered whether to leave the venue with which rugby league’s oldest Cup competition is synonymous.

Wolves No.1 Ratchford - a former St Pat’s junior - has waded into the issue, and said: “I know there was talk they might move it from Wembley - and if they do that, I think they’re ruining the Challenge Cup.

“A lot of the Aussie and Kiwi boys have heard of the Cup and associate it with Wembley. It doesn’t have a ring to it anywhere else; as good as it was playing a semi-final in Bolton, imagine the Challenge Cup final at the University of Bolton Stadium?

“The passion is still there and it needs to stay where it is because it’s still held in extremely high regard. There’s a special bond with rugby league and Wembley, and being able to walk out at the national stadium. It needs to be left alone.

“As a kid growing up, it’s the trophy that gets mentioned the most because everyone wants to play at Wembley. For me, that’s no different now. It has a different feeling to Super League.”

Ratchford still lives in Wigan and while many neutrals are becoming a ‘Dragon for the day’, he hopes his neighbours will cheer for the primrose and blue.

“They’ll be talking to me this week. We’re not playing Wigan so I think we’ll be fine - we go on Thursday so hopefully they put my bins out for me on Friday,” he smiled.

“It’s just in Wigan week I get a bit of a grief. They’d be putting their rubbish in my bin if we were playing Wigan this week, overflowing it and stinking my garden out!

“To be fair, I think I’m converting them and getting them onto the Warrington side of things now.”

His team-mate Josh Charnley was in the Wigan side which won the Cup in 2013, along with Catalans duo Micky McIlorum and Iain Thorney. Ex-Warriors Lewis Tierney (Dragons) and Jack Hughes (Wolves) are also set to figure on Saturday.