WHEN Warrington Wolves and Castleford Tigers square up in Saturday’s Challenge Cup semi-final at Leigh Sports Village, the stakes feel much higher than in the competition’s recent past.

Nothing lifts a town’s mood like its premier sports team contesting a cup final at Wembley, as has happened six times in the past 12 years.

But with the dark times we’ve been through with the coronavirus pandemic, now would be a better time than ever to get swallowed up by Warrington Wolves Challenge Cup fever.

Whether it be through going to Wembley to experience the showpiece event live, or watching on TV at home, the occasion and the six weeks of tantalising build-up would be a welcome distraction in a period when we’re all hoping to be able to continue finding the new ‘normal’ in our lives.

Of course, the Yorkshire town of Castleford wants exactly the same so it all comes down to a unique 80 minutes of action.

Both head coaches want to bow out of their jobs later this year having won some silverware this season, and while it would be pleasing for Cas chief Daryl Powell to take up his new role with Warrington next term as a 2021 Challenge Cup winner that would only be possible at the expense of The Wire’s current boss Steve Price. It’s certainly a very unusual position.

Since the coaching changes were announced, Price and Powell have already locked horns once with The Wire running out comfortable 38-18 winners a fortnight ago.

You will also be hard pressed looking back in history to find a semi final in which one team went into it having scored and the other conceded 60 points or more on their previous outing.

They say beware the wounded wolf, but this week it is take note of the tortured tiger.

Powell was steaming with the way his side capitulated at home to their arch-rivals Leeds Rhinos last weekend and making Wolves suffer in response will be their goal.

It is possible the Cas players already had their sights on the cup game and took their eyes off the task immediately in front of them.

Tigers, depleted of up to a dozen players of late, had some of their absent stars back last week and will be better for having gotten a game under their belts. Expect a couple more faces to be back this week.

It all adds up to Tigers, capable of beating any Super League rival on their day, being very dangerous opposition.

While The Wire are understandably favourites, any complacency could prove to be their biggest enemy.

It felt a little like that last year when Salford Red Devils were very much the underdogs and The Wire failed to turn up.

They cannot afford to do that again.