Kevin Sinfield backing Leeds ahead of Challenge Cup semi-final against Warrington

Kevin Sinfield - Leeds Rhinos coach
Kevin Sinfield - Leeds Rhinos coach

Kevin Sinfield cannot bring himself to talk about a Leeds victory in Sunday's Ladbrokes Challenge Cup semi-final at Bolton but insists he has not lost faith in his under-performing team.

The Rhinos go into the second match of an historic Challenge Cup double-header against Warrington in front of a sell-out 28,000 crowd on the back of a 38-22 defeat at fellow strugglers Salford and with just one win from their last 11 Super League games.

They are appearing in a record 48th semi-final, only 80 minutes from a sixth Wembley appearance in nine years, but their former captain, now director of rugby, says their seven-try mauling by the 12-man Red Devils indicates the size of their task.

"Performance is crucial," said Sinfield. "I don't think we're in a position to talk about winning, given Friday's performance, that would be naive and foolish.

"We've a lot to work on before we start to think about winning.

"But we've been the underdog many times and we've been able to use it to our advantage. Hopefully we'll be able to do it this time.

"Even after Friday's disappointment, I still believe in this group. I believe we are capable of performing really well at the weekend."

Top-four side Warrington are also going into the tie on the back of a defeat but Sinfield reckons they were unlucky not to become only the third team to topple St Helens this year in last Friday's derby.

"Warrington are a great club who have done some really good things already this year," Sinfield added.

"It's a tough proposition for us. I watched their game against Saints and I thought they were unlucky."

Warrington won 33-22 in the league at Headingley in May and thrashed Wigan 23-0 to reach the last four of the cup but coach Steve Price says there is plenty of room for improvement.

"Leeds are a talented side," said Price, who is hoping to lead the Wolves out at Wembley in his first season in Super League. "They've got a lot of experience on the big stage over the last 10 years and we certainly as a club are not underestimating them.

"They're going to throw everything into this game. Form goes out of the window and we're not too concerned about what they've done in the past.

"We're still looking for that complete performance. We've been close in the last Challenge Cup win over Wigan but I'm looking for a more ruthless attitude and, if we go out there and display that, then the big picture will take care of itself."

St Helens are the clear favourites to win the first semi-final, which kicks off at 12.30pm at the University of Bolton Stadium, but full-back Ben Barba is urging his team-mates not to underestimate the threat of Catalans Dragons, who won seven and drew one of their last 10 matches of the regular Super League season.

"They're one of the red-hot sides in the competition and are playing with a lot of confidence," Barba said. "We'll definitely have to be on our game.

"The last few weeks have shown what they can do when they're on their job so we'll have to prepare the best we can and be ready to play the toughest Catalans side we've played all year."

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