GIANTS pack star Eorl Crabtree is backing the annual Exiles showdown to become a big deal – so long as the right formula can be found.
After the initial success of the 2011 one-off meeting won 16-12 by the Exiles at Headingley, it was decided to expand the competition to two matches this summer.
The first game at St Helens new Langtree Park home attracted a crowd of 11,083 and produced an 18-10 success for England, but the second match at Huddersfield’s Galpharm Stadium was watched by just 7,865 as the Exiles secured a series win with a 32-20 victory giving them an aggregate 42-38 triumph to retain the trophy.
Crabtree started both games at prop for England and it was an experience he enjoyed, but the 29-year-old Giants powerhouse felt that there were still improvements that could be made.
“I hope the England and Exiles games will continue in the future, but I do think that the RFL need to look at which is the right way to do it,” said Crabtree.
“I found it very hard going into the game at the Galpharm Stadium when I had played a significant amount of time in the Super League game at Hull FC.
“Backing up with the international on Wednesday night certainly didn’t do me too many favours.
“Simply as a player you didn’t seem to get the time to have the right preparation for the game.
“With the first game we had been given the extra weekend to get together as a group and I much preferred that.
“And I felt that for the game at St Helens the team had all prepared properly and there were obvious results, so maybe the RFL could look at that.”
The Galpharm game also had other knock-on effects for Crabtree who fractured a finger and missed the Giants Super League trip to Castleford, though the forward said he would have been rested after his international exertions anyway.
“I fractured my finger, so I was actually in pretty bad state after it all,” said Crabtree.
“But missing the Cas game was as much about resting and I really did need to have a break.
“I had a lot of minutes on the field at Hull and to then have the Exiles game was hard work.”
However, Crabtree is definitely a fan of the clash and added: “If it is done the right way then the Exiles game has got a great future.
“It has to be decided whether it is a one-off game or whether they want a series, and then if a series is actually possible during the Super League season.
“But if we make sure that it is done right then I am sure the game will grow and grow.
“I know all the players on both sides want to play and they put everything into it and all I can say on a personal level is that it was a great experience to be involved.”
FANS can pay on the door for the Carnegie Challenge Cup semi-finals this weekend at the Galpharm Stadium and Salford City Stadium.
Cup holders Wigan Warriors face Super League champions Leeds Rhinos at the Galpharm Stadium today and the Giants face Warrington Wolves at Salford tomorrow – both games kick-off at 5.30pm.
The Galpharm Stadium ticket office will be open from midday today and will remain open until kick-off where tickets priced £20 will be available to purchase – cash turnstiles will also be in operation from 4pm onwards.
The ticket office at Salford City Stadium will also be open from midday tomorrow where £20 tickets will be available up until kick-off – turnstiles will also open from 4pm onwards.