Robbie Paul commits to Bradford

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The Independent Online

Bradford, already the hottest of favourites to reach the final of the Challenge Cup, have received the biggest possible psychological boost on the eve of their semi-final against Warrington with their captain, Robbie Paul, committing himself to another three years at the club.

Paul, who has returned to his very best form this year, was due to be out of contract at the end of this season and would inevitably have been in great demand elsewhere.

"It's a massive boost for the club going into the semi-final," said the club's chief executive, Abi Ekoku. "Robbie has attracted attention from other Super League clubs, clubs in Australia and has had considerable interest from rugby union. We are delighted that he has agreed to stay with the Bulls."

Paul said that the prospect of playing at a new stadium, due to rise on the site of their home at Odsal, had played a major part in his decision to stay with the Bulls.

At Headingley today, he will be central to Bradford's plans to complete a demolition job on Warrington, the side they beat 58-4 in Super League last week. It is a mark of Bradford's strength that they are able to recall two players rested for that match, Michael Withers and Jamie Fielden.

They have been warned from within their own camp, however, to expect a different Warrington today - and a much more influential contribution from Paul's opposite number, Allan Langer. The Bulls' loose forward, Brad Mackay, played for Australia with Langer and predicted that he will bounce back strongly.

"He is someone I have played a lot of football with and against and I know him very well," Mackay said. "He will be a different player this week. He couldn't do much at the weekend, because we really quietened down his runners. We left him nowhere to go - no spaces.

"We will have to be very wary of him because he is one of the best players I have ever played with or against and he is definitely good enough to come back."

Whether Warrington can improve sufficiently to make a contest of the first semi-final is open to doubt, but tomorrow's match looks far more evenly balanced.

The Leeds chief executive, Gary Hetherington, and his wife, the Hull chairwoman, Kath, have gone their separate ways this week, Gary moving into the couple's second home, a flat in York, so that both can have their own space during the build-up to the match between their clubs.

One conversation they could not have had over the breakfast table in any event is one comparing their Super League victories so far, because both sides have reserved their best for the Cup - Leeds in the second half against St Helens and Hull in their victory over Wigan.

Leeds, still not firing consistently under their new coach, Dean Lance, suffer the loss of the suspended Adrian Morley and could also be without Andy Hay. Lance moves Iestyn Harris to full-back and will start with Andy Speak at hooker and Lee Jackson on the bench.

The hooking role is also an issue for Shaun McRae at Hull, who will give Mick Jenkins - outstanding this season - as long as possible to recover from a knee injury. They need him there if they are to show the same drive that accounted for Wigan - and could do the same to the Cup-holders.

A final at Murrayfield would be a significant boost for the game in Hull. At the risk of being a party-pooper, though, what would that same event have done for the club in its previous setting at Gateshead?