I'm chuffed to bits to be in a position to sponsor the Betfred Challenge Cup final at Wembley on Saturday afternoon.
It has all the makings of a fantastic David v Goliath battle royal with Saints hot favourites at 3/10 to triumph. I’m sure their Yorkshire opponents Castleford at 11/4 will however come all guns blazing to make it an enthralling contest.
Castleford face the Betfred Super League champions on the back of a thumping 70-18 defeat by the struggling Salford Red Devils.
It was the largest score my home town team Salford have ever posted in the Betfred Super League, and no doubt impacted on the Tigers confidence ahead of the big game.
This defeat came last Sunday, two days after Saints produced a solid 30-14 win away at Wakefield. So the extra two days recovery could have a bearing too.
However Tigers coach Darryl Powell did make a number of changes to his team in the and will no doubt put out a completely different side at Wembley…so I’m sure Saints coach Kristian Woolf has taken very little from that game.
Paul Sculthorpe, the Oldham born St Helens legend and Betfred TV pundit had this view of the final:
"There’s no doubt if Castleford turn up with their A-game it will be a tough game. For me, it’s important Saints start fast and are ruthless both with and without the ball straight from kick off.
"Both team love to play expansive rugby so with the expected hot weather at weekend it should all add to a fantastic occasion.
"There could be some great battles out there with the likes of Paul McShane v James Roby, Jacob Trueman v Jonny Lomax and Liam Watts v Alex Walmsley. Six players there who will also be trying to get one over their opposite number not only to help their team lift the Challenge Cup, but also impress England RL coach Shaun Wane ahead of the World Cup in October."
On that note, great to hear that the competition is set to get the go-ahead despite rumours it may be postponed until next year due to Covid. This could be the much needed boost for the game after what has been a tough 18months.
Sculthorpe's prediction: Saints win by 18 points or more which is 7/4 at Betfred.
I'm desperately trying to think ahead and put that so disappointing Euros final defeat agsinst Italy behind me.
And with that in mind we've got the odds sorted for next year's World Cup in Qatar. France and Brazil are joint favourites at 11/2 with Gareth Southgate's young England team at 7/1 with Spain 9/1 while newly crowned European champions Italy are 10/1 shots along with Germany and Belgium.
One England fan is feeling on top of the world… despite Sunday's final heartache.
My congratulations to Ryan Kidger, a father-of-two who owns a roofing company in Leicester where he lives, won nearly £3,000 from an £87 bet at Betfred.
The 42-year-old wagered £50 on Italy to win the tournament at 8/1 – and £37.85 on Italy to win and England to finish runners-up at 66/1.
He said: “My grandmother Lucia, who sadly is in a nursing home, is Italian so it’s in our blood. I always put a bit on Italy, but it was hard because I am an England fan."
The family already have a staycation in Mablethorpe booked – and the winnings has left him embroiled in a good-natured row with his wife over what sort of car they can now afford to put a deposit on.
He explained: “I want to put a chunk down on a new Volkswagen Golf, but she wants a Ranger Rover Evoque – so we all know what we’ll be getting!
Good luck to Ryan - at least one Englishman has something to smile about at the moment...and not just that lovely beach at Mablethorpe!