Venue: Leigh Sports Village Date: Saturday, 5 June Kick-off: 11:15 BST Coverage: Live on BBC Two, BBC local radio and live text on the BBC Sport website.

They are among the ‘superwomen’ of rugby league, ready for their moment in the spotlight when Saturday’s Challenge Cup final is broadcast on network television for the first time.

St Helens and York City Knights will meet at Leigh Sports Village in front of the BBC Two cameras, a showcase of star quality, athleticism, power, speed, skill and strength.

BBC Sport takes a look at a few players to keep an eye on.

Saints’ superstar soldier-centre

Carrie Roberts
Carrie Roberts in Saints colours (left) and representing the Army RL side

One of St Helens’ semi-final heroes was double try-scoring centre Carrie Roberts, who took her tally to five in just two games after an opening-round Super League hat-trick.

The British Army sergeant, who normally serves in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, is on an Elite Sports Programme to help prepare her for representing England at the World Cup this autumn.

It means she can train and play to build up for the tournament without having to juggle regular duties, and also has wider-reaching benefits for her substantive role.

“Not only do we go away and try to be the best we can in our sport but we go back to the army and bring a lot of things from that environment,” Roberts told BBC Sport.

“There’s leadership, discipline, and there is a lot they can get from sports people. The army and sport are really similar in so many aspects.

“Boxers or rugby league players have to have courage and that leadership and discipline and it goes hand in hand.”

Roberts is excited about the test of playing a tough York side after their victory over holders Leeds, which she says gave the team real confidence for the showpiece.

It is the tough stuff, the physical test of rugby league that Roberts is relishing most.

“I enjoy the competitiveness and putting your body on the line, it’s a sport where all that passion and what you’ve worked for comes out if you get to finals.

“When you’re tired, you know your mate next you is tired, but you have to dig in. I love that, being able to just dig in and keep going.”

The new mum with the stunning return

Ashleigh Hyde takes to the field for the York City Knights, little more than two months after becoming a new mum.

Her son Finley was born just seven weeks before she made her first appearance of the season in a Women’s Super League victory against Featherstone Rovers with just a two-week, full-on ‘preseason’.

It prompted a flurry of attention including national newspaper coverage, not to mention a retweet of admiration from Rugby Football League president Clare Balding.

“I’ve been a bit taken aback by it, really,” Hyde told BBC Look North. “I honestly didn’t think it was that big of a deal.

“I think because I’ve just been so focused. I’ve not really thought about it.”

Hyde, 25, is from a family steeped in the sport, as her late mum played and her sister Robyn is part of the Learning Disability Rugby League squad at the Knights.

She hopes she can influence other women to get back into the game, and sport in general, after pregnancy.

“I think to myself – if other women in sport and other people in the sport can look at me and think – ‘Well, she’s come back after a baby’ or ‘Oh, she’s come back after this’, hopefully I can inspire them to do it as well,” she added.

“To inspire them to make sure that they know that they can do it if you just work little bit harder.”

Tries galore from England stars

Rhiannon Marshall
Rhiannon Marshall is key to York’s creativity in the halves

There is ample talent in the respective squads to get excited about from a try-scoring perspective, and after all, that is the name of the game.

For York, look no further than England international Kelsey Gentles, a flier on the flank, while stand-off Rhiannon Marshall mixes her ball-playing skills with an eye for the line having scored four Super League tries this season.

St Helens have been relentless in their points accrual so far in 2021, and have a wealth of talent in the league’s top scorers list.

Former Bradford centre Amy Hardcastle, another England mainstay, leads the way with at least one try in every game so far this season.

She is not just a hero on the field either, combining her playing duties with her job as a frontline NHS nurse.

Back-rower Emily Rudge and Jodie Cunningham – who has featured in the halves, full-back and loose-forward – are also among those to weigh in with regular scores.


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