Hull v Wigan preview.
Crooks no risk for Gentle
Hull coach Peter Gentle insists he is not taking a risk by playing 20-year-old centre Ben Crooks in the Tetley's Challenge Cup final against Wigan on Saturday.
Crooks, who had scored 20 tries in 21 appearances up to suffering ankle-ligament damage against Bradford a month ago, was expected to miss the rest of the season after being told he needed surgery.
However, he resumed full training at the start of the week and, after being included in Hull's 19-man squad, was confirmed in the starting line-up by Gentle after the team's final training session on the Wembley turf.
Gentle's hand was forced to some extent by the loss of Crooks' deputy, Joe Arundel, with a broken bone in his hand, but he insisted there were other options open to him.
"We could have played Richard Horne or Richard Whiting but he's our top tryscorer and he's good to go so it would be foolish not to play him," Gentle told reporters pitchside.
"He's put in a lot of hard work. We were hopeful of next week but he's ready to go. He's passed every test since late last week and there is no risk involved."
Other than confirming Crooks' place, Gentle was determined not to reveal all to Wigan, leaving open the possibility that the long-serving Horne could make another remarkable comeback on the biggest stage.
The Hull-born utility back, 31, was picked to play in the 2008 final against St Helens despite being out for more than four months through injury and illness and took part in Friday's training session, three months after damaging a foot in the Hull derby at the Magic Weekend.
Gentle's other option at full-back in the absence of the sidelined Shannon McDonnell is 21-year-old Jamie Shaul, who has deputised in the last three Super League games, but he was giving little away.
"Every one in that 19-man squad is fit to play," Gentle added. "A few tough decisions had to be made but the 19-man squad has been together since Tuesday.
"They're going fine, there's no worries. It's been a blessing to get through the last session with no injuries. We've got 19 fit players to pick from for tomorrow."
While Shaul stands by to make only his sixth senior appearance, winger Jason Crookes, 23, will make his 10th start for the club as a replacement for the injured Tom Lineham.
Wigan forward Harrison Hansen has warned Hull his team's recent form is nothing but a "little blip".
The Warriors head into the final on the back of a poor league run that has seen them surrender top spot.
Shaun Wane's men now cannot win the League Leaders' Shield after winning just two of their last seven games in the competition.
But with that sequence punctuated by good displays in the cup - most notably the 70-0 thrashing of London Broncos in the semi-finals - Wigan remain firm favourites this weekend.
Hansen believes that status is justified for a side that has spent most of the season top of the table.
The 27-year-old Samoa international said: "It has been a bit funny the last two or three weeks. Over the course of the year we have been racking up points and probably these last few weeks we have ducked under a little.
"But at the end of the day it is a final and it will be different to Super League. I can't wait to get out there. Teams have little blips and that is all it is. We have things we can work on and it's easily fixed.
"Hull will be confident and are in good form but we are still in the position because of what we have done in the year and how we have played. It doesn't matter. Everyone is going to be prepared for this game."