The major talking points ahead of the Challenge Cup final

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History could be made at Wembley on Saturday when Catalans Dragons take on Warrington seeking to become the first non-British winners of the Challenge Cup.

Here Press Association Sport takes a look at the talking points surrounding the 117th final.

A nation throws its support behind the Catalans

The Dragons were beaten by Saints in the 2007 final
The Dragons were beaten by Saints in the 2007 final (Anna Gowthorpe/PA)

Officials bracing themselves for swathes of empty seats

The Catalans enjoy superb support in Perpignan but the French are notoriously bad travellers and a combination of flight shortage, the peak holiday season and an economic recession restricted ticket sales to just 2,500. There could be around 4,000 in all and the Dragons will have the backing of the neutrals but crowd projections suggest it could be the lowest attendance at Wembley since 54,730 watched Wakefield play Wigan in 1946. That was the only time the attendance has dipped below 60,000 in the last seven decades but the size of the crowd will be a reflection of the diminishing appeal of the showpiece occasion just as much as the disappointing travelling support from France.

Will nerves get the better of the Dragons?

Eleven of Warrington’s 19-man squad have played at Wembley, most of them as recently as 2016, so they will know what to expect from arguably the most memorable occasion in the rugby league calendar. On the other hand, just three of the Catalans players have previous Challenge Cup final experience and there must be concern that the occasion will get the better of them. However, there were few signs of nerves when Steve McNamara’s men produced a stunning performance to knock out hot favourites St Helens in front of a sell-out 28,000 crowd at Bolton earlier this month.

A fairytale start for Steve Price

Steve Price has enjoyed a fine start to life at Warrington
Steve Price has enjoyed a fine start to life at Warrington (Martin Rickett/PA)

Steve McNamara proves his critics wrong

The critics were queuing up to call for McNamara’s head after the Dragons won just three of their opening 13 Super League matches, this after needing to win the Million Pound Game last September to preserve their top-flight status. But owner Guasch kept his nerve and his faith in the former England boss and his loyalty has been repaid handsomely as he gets to lead his club out at Wembley. McNamara needed to eradicate deep-rooted problems in the culture of the Catalans club and, although for a long time he looked to be fighting a losing cause, their Challenge Cup run suggests he is well on the way to winning the battle.

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