Inside Hull KR and Wigan Warriors' mutual respect based on threat to each other's aspirations

Saturday's Challenge Cup semi-final has thrown up an increasingly regular fixture - and one that rugby league can expect to remain on the biggest stages if all the indications are correct.

Wigan Warriors and Hull KR will go into battle once again in the first semi-final at Doncaster's Eco-Power Stadium, with a place at Wembley on the line. It's the latest in a growing list of meetings between the two clubs, who locked horns five times last year.

Two of those meetings were in semi-finals, with the Robins prevailing in the Challenge Cup and the Warriors in the Super League play-offs. Now, the latest installment is upon us in an unlikely rivalry that looks set to be around for some time.

Internally, there is a healthy level of respect between the two camps based on their previous encounters. Last year, two games were decided in Golden Point and while Wigan were heavy winners on two occasions, Hull KR did a number on them in Willie Peters' first game in charge. Likewise, they were convincing winners three weeks ago.

Wigan are the team to beat at the minute; of that, there can be no dispute. The defending Super League champions are also the World Club champions and have been imperious again this year. With a young squad at Matt Peet's disposal, they look set for a trophy-laden period, which could see them discussed in the same way as their all-conquering side of the 80s and 90s by the time they come to an end. The Warriors very much appear to be at the beginning of a dynasty.

Meanwhile, Hull KR are a club desperate to break the glass ceiling and finally land the major silverware they have been working towards since their relegation and subsequent return to Super League in 2018. The club has experienced a remarkable ascent, both on and off the field, in recent years, but it is a trophy that they need to truly emerge on the stage that they seek.

The groundwork has been paved and the foundations set at Craven Park for the Robins to become a powerhouse club. It is what makes occasions like these so important to the club now, as they can only cement themselves as that by winning.

That's why there is such respect between the two clubs; because the other threatens to ruin their own aspirations. Hull KR are set to be a potential disruptor in Wigan's quest for an era of dominance, while the Robins know the Warriors are the team they must surpass to end a nearly 40-year wait to win a big one. Hull KR very much want what Wigan has.

It's a semi-final that promises to deliver in spades, but also one we should probably get used to seeing.

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