Rugby League: Castleford may test tactical options which Edwards has brought to Bulls

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The Independent Online
BRADFORD BULLS have made fewer changes in personnel than any club over the winter, but today's Silk Cut Challenge Cup tie at Castleford is the first serious opportunity to assess one significant addition.

Bradford were so dominant last season that it hardly mattered that they knew only one way to play. When Plan A works as well as it did - at least against domestic opposition - there is not much call for Plan B.

The recruitment of a master craftsman like Shaun Edwards gives them a series of alternative strategies stretching deep into the alphabet - and Castleford show signs of becoming opposition against whom sheer power might not be enough.

Edwards' arrival - and the appointment of Graeme Bradley as captain - frees the mercurial Robbie Paul from other responsibilities and will make the New Zealander all the more dangerous.

The beaten finalists for the last two years will be wary of Cas, especially after the way they hung in to beat Leeds in injury time in the last round.

The Castleford coach, Stuart Raper, recalls his hooker, Richard Russell, in place of Danny Orr and may give a debut to Danny Ellison, the winger signed from Wigan.

At The Stoop the front-row confrontation between London Broncos' Mark Carroll and Grant Young on one side and Halifax's Karl Harrison and Kelvin Skerrett on the other rather gives the lie to the contention that modern rugby league is a game in which props are all converted second rowers.

The tie will be the first test of Broncos' jibes about "Northern softies" and their boast that they will out-muscle the opposition this season. Certainly, in Carroll and Young they have the most physically imposing front row in Britain - and Carroll has a particular reason for wanting to go to Wembley. On his last visit there, as a member of Australia's World Cup-winning side in 1995, he hid a pair of his custom-made, size 15 boots in the stadium, with the intention of reclaiming them on the day of the Cup final.

St Helens have also left their mark on Wembley over the last two years, but will find Warrington a sterner proposition than of late in this afternoon's televised match.

Australian brothers will be in opposition at Widnes, with their prop forward, Kyle White, facing the Salford scrum-half, Josh. That is one of a number of ties in which Super League sides should be too strong for their opponents. Hull and Sheffield face the amateurs of Ellenborough and Egremont and it is difficult to imagine Wigan being any more extended at Dewsbury, even though they will be without Henry Paul. The New Zealander has a calf injury and will be replaced by Tony Smith, with Craig Murdock taking over at scrum-half.