|Coral Challenge Cup final|
|Venue: Wembley Stadium Date: Saturday, 24 August Kick-off: 15:00 BST|
|Coverage: Live on BBC One from 14:00 BST; BBC local radio; live text commentary on the BBC Sport website and app|
Rugby league players are used to the bumps, breaks and bruises of a full-contact sport. It goes with the territory.
But sometimes, injuries occur that really do floor the biggest of athletes.
Spare a thought for Jack Hughes, who, on the cusp of Warrington Wolves’ Wembley return in Saturday’s Challenge Cup final, has been recovering from a ruptured testicle sustained in a Super League game at Catalans Dragons earlier this month.
Hughes told BBC Sport: “(The pain) is up there. It’s top of the Richter scale.
“That initial five minutes of getting the knee (in the groin) was pretty painful. I wouldn’t WISh it on my worst enemy.
“I genuinely couldn’t get off the floor for five minutes, I just needed that time to myself.
“It settled down but then I came out for the second half and the swelling started coming out. The more swelling, the more I struggled.
“I had to get off and get myself checked, and within a couple of hours I was in surgery. Gladly the surgeon did a good job and I’ve still got the two testicles intact.”
‘Parlez-vous Anglais?’ Hughes’ French adventure
Of all the places to sustain such an unfortunate and unusual injury the Dragons’ Stade Gilbert Brutus in Perpignan – in the south of France – is probably not the most logistically convenient.
The sight of an elite sportsman in his full kit, in the accident and emergency department of a Perpignan hospital, would have been another unusual sight.
“My French isn’t the best, and a lot of the nurses’ English wasn’t the best so it made things a bit of hard work,” the 27-year-old added.
“But luckily the surgeon who operated on me, his English was top-notch. We had a good conversation about what had happened – I’d ruptured a third of my testicle.
“He was hopeful he could repair me, though he explained if he couldn’t what life would possibly be like and I was pretty relaxed.”
Testicular injuries a rare occurrence
Hughes’ return to the first team after such an incident was greeted as only a dressing room can.
“I’ve had every joke under sun, on Twitter or off the boys,” Hughes said, making light of a potentially serious injury which might have robbed him of more than just game-time.
“It’s the last thing you think of in terms of picking up an injury.
“Most boys can go all their career, 15 years, without a whack there.
“It’s something, one of the those freak things that happens. There’s a previous Warrington player (Paul Wood) it happened to who had to have one of his removed.
“Life’s fine with one I’m told, but I am lucky to have both of mine intact.”
Eyes set on Wembley now
Warrington coach Steve Price named Hughes as one of his co-captains for the season, seeing him as a big character within the dressing room in support of skipper Chris Hill.
Hughes is keen to ensure he will have the opportunity to iNFLuence the Wire on Saturday, having missed the past two matches – which ended in defeat – with the injury.
“I’m looking forward to it more than ever,” Hughes added.
“It’s no ordinary game for my comeback, and on the back of something initially scary the chance to lift a trophy could make it a very special month for me.”
His first taste of the big occasion came while at Wigan in 2013, joining the celebrations as a non-playing member of the squad, while back-to-back appearances of his own have ended in defeats by Hull and Catalans in 2016 and 2018.
The emotion of featuring at Wembley, on the back of recent setbacks, have fired the former Wigan and Huddersfield forward for the test of runaway Super League leaders St Helens.
“It means everything. I’ve witnessed a team I’ve been involved in get up and lift that trophy and I’ve good memories of that. I wasn’t in the 17 that day but I was around the squad and saw how they prepared and what it took.
“It means more than ever. They say that success tastes better when you’ve tasted defeat and that’s definitely the case for me.”