IT'S almost time.

For around a month now, the Challenge Cup semi final has loomed large on the horizon for Warrington Wolves and beyond it, Wembley Stadium has started to come into view.

There is still the significant hurdle of Huddersfield Giants to clear on Sunday before they can start booking London hotels and measuring up for cup final suits, but supporters are starting to dream of a first Wembley appearance since 2019.

Ahead of the semi-final at the Totally Wicked Stadium, our Wire reporter Matt Turner has picked our five key pre-match talking points...

A time for heroes

These are the games everyone wants to be involved in.

Whether that’s players, coaches, supporters, members of the media – whatever skin you have in the game, you grind through the tough times for days like Sunday.

Wembley could quite comfortably have been rebranded “HJ South” between 2009 and 2019 – a period in which Warrington Wolves stepped out there six times. Since the new stadium opened, only Leeds Rhinos have as many Wembley appearances.

For a club of Wire’s ambition, however, five years is a long time between drinks and as such, this group of players have the chance to write themselves into history.

The quarter-final victory over St Helens will be remembered as a high point of the campaign whatever happens, but the effort that went into that game will count for nothing if they fall short against Huddersfield Giants.

Now is the time for heroes to emerge…

Warrington Guardian: George Williams is mobbed after scoring at St Helens last monthGeorge Williams is mobbed after scoring at St Helens last month (Image: PA Wire)

Can Wire recreate the magic?

The aforementioned quarter-final victory was probably the most complete display Warrington have put in this season.

Although the Super League win over Hull KR last time out came very close, they arguably have not hit those heights since in terms of performance.

The Wire team will arguably be stronger than it was that day, particularly in the pack – Paul Vaughan, Zane Musgrove and Ben Currie all missed the quarter-final but, barring anything drastic happening between now and kick off, they will be available to Sam Burgess on Sunday.

With that in mind, can they recreate the dazzling display that stunned the Saints that day? Or even the razor-sharp, laser-focused showing that rocked the Robins last week?

If they do, it would take a pretty sensational performance coming the other way to deny them.

Warrington Guardian: Matty Ashton's sensational finish in the quarter finalMatty Ashton's sensational finish in the quarter final (Image: PA Wire)

Burgess set to put faith in Tai

It would certainly be a surprise if Burgess deviates from the 17 that beat Hull KR last time out, all of whom should be well rested following a lengthy, 10-day turnaround.

The only potential change would be if Connor Wrench completes his recovery from an ankle injury in time to be in contention but even if he does, all the indications are Rodrick Tai will keep his spot at right centre.

Having returned to the team to good effect in games against both Hull clubs over the past fortnight, the Papua New Guinean has certainly earned the right to do so and his partnership with Josh Thewlis is showing plenty of promise.

For the most part, the defensive connection on a right edge has looked sound in recent weeks but it will no doubt be tested again by a Huddersfield left side likely to contain the deadly centre-wing combination of Esan Marsters and Adam Swift.

Tai will likely get plenty of traffic sent his way but if he copes again in what will be just his fifth top-flight club appearance, it will be another boost to his growing confidence.

Warrington Guardian: Rodrick Tai has started the past two games in the centresRodrick Tai has started the past two games in the centres (Image: Mike Boden)

The master of the underdog victory

Huddersfield head coach Ian Watson knows a thing or two about getting seemingly unfancied sides into major finals.

Indeed, he will be looking to reach the Challenge Cup Final for the third time in five years having done so in his first year with the Giants in 2022 and with Salford in 2020 to go with the Super League Grand Final he led the Red Devils to in 2019.

Salford reached Wembley in 2020 thanks to a semi-final win over Warrington at a rain-soaked and empty Totally Wicked Stadium with the country still under Covid restrictions in a game The Wire were heavily favoured to win.

Burgess’ boys will start as favourites on Sunday, but that is not a tag that will overawe Watson or the Giants, who similarly beat the odds to set this game up thanks to an eye-catching 34-6 win over Catalans Dragons in Perpignan.

Warrington Guardian: A dejected Toby King following the 2020 semi-final loss to Salford, who were coached by current Huddersfield boss Ian WatsonA dejected Toby King following the 2020 semi-final loss to Salford, who were coached by current Huddersfield boss Ian Watson (Image: Mike Boden)

Crowd watch

You can certainly sense a fair helping of apathy around the Challenge Cup from supporters.

The aforementioned run of trips to Wembley in the relatively recent past means a sense of “been there, done that” floats around parts of the Warrington fanbase but across the board, attendances at cup fixtures have dwindled.

While Wire will be backed by close to 6,000 supporters on Sunday, the Totally Wicked Stadium will only be around half-full for one of the few games of rugby league to be shown on terrestrial TV.

The usual social media derision has followed news of Warrington not selling out their allocation for a game being played essentially on their doorstep and while there are mitigating factors – the game clashing with the final day of the Premier League football season does not help along with the obvious financial reasons with money still tight for plenty – the days of selling out Widnes and Salford for last-four clashes are still a distant memory.

Still, with the East Terrace sold out, a wall of around 4,000 Wire fans will no doubt still create a cacophony of noise to cheer their heroes on.

Warrington Guardian: Nearly 6,000 Wire fans are expected to be at Sunday's semi-finalNearly 6,000 Wire fans are expected to be at Sunday's semi-final (Image: