RETURNING England international Stef Ratchford said he came through Warrington Wolves’ Challenge Cup semi-final win against Hull FC unscathed after only finding out 24 hours before kick-off that he would be playing.

The 31-year-old full-back, who instantly took over the goal-kicking again, was among the top performers in a great team effort despite playing his first game since tearing his pectoral muscle in the home Super League loss to Hull on May 18.

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He said he felt no apprehension going into the tie, as a replacement for Josh Charnley who had knee surgery in midweek, despite returning to the field quicker than is the norm for the surgery he underwent.

“This year’s semi-final was probably a bit easier than last year,” said Ratchford, who went into the 2018 semi-final win against Leeds on the back of spending four days at his new-born daughter’s hospital bedside in intensive care due to her initial breathing difficulties.

“I just prepared myself on the focus of being back fit, so it was all about myself this year and not having to worry about anyone else.

“That was a different weight on my mind.

“I’ve been saying I was ready but was probably pushing my luck a bit.

“I was probably going to wait another week or two but when we lost Charners the coach asked me if I was ready to go and I was pretty confident I was, so he was happy to go with what I was saying. All the medical staff were happy as well.

“Initially they said 12 to 16 weeks. There’s been a couple of players who’ve done it in 10 or 11 weeks, so we knew that wasn’t out of the question.

“It was nine weeks three days since the operation so we were there or thereabouts. Ideally we probably would have waited another week or two.

“I’d just needed to get fit as quickly as possible and it just happened to be I was ready to go this week, and then we lost Charners so it kind of all fell into place.

“The medical staff and conditioning staff we’ve got are really good so I followed the protocol for about five or six weeks.

“I’d been doing a bit more each week and this past week we’d probably ramped it right up and there’s probably not much more I could have done to prep myself, other than waiting a couple more weeks and then we’d have ramped up the fitness level over a longer period.

“It was a good game to come back to, you don’t need much motivation to get up for a game of that magnitude, so I was happy to just get out there and be back playing.

“I didn’t feel the pec once during the game. I just wanted to get out there and get a touch or tackle as early as possible.

“Everything we’d done had prepped me to be ready to play and I had no issues.

“It’s been a frustrating nine weeks.

“The boys have had some really good performances but the last two weeks had been disappointing.

“One of the things we were disappointed about was the way we’d defended and conceded some sloppy tries of the type that we don’t concede usually.

“We conceded a few breaks and half breaks but I thought the way we scrambled and got back in numbers was really good.”