Higham back from surgery and sets sights on the Bulls

 

Mickey Higham has timed his return from elbow surgery perfectly for Warrington's game at Bradford tonight.

The England hooker has not played since suffering the painful injury during the draw at Hull in the first round of Super League. He has been included in the squad for the league leaders at Odsal this evening, as a direct replacement for their regular hooker, Michael Monaghan.

Monaghan went into hospital this week for a minor operation on one knee, only for the surgeon to discover that both needed attention. The double operation will keep him out for two weeks, but, as in most positions, the Wolves are fortunate in having quality back-up.

Apart from Higham, they have the versatile Simon Grix back in their squad after a knee injury for a match that could see a couple of Warrington milestones. It is Tony Smith's 100th game in charge, while Ryan Atkins, who has been outstanding in the centres so far this season, needs one try for a career century.

Bradford have not yet won at home this season, but they showed encouraging form in beating Wakefield at Belle Vue last week.

Nobody shone brighter than Elliot Whitehead, the young second-rower who scored the second hat-trick of his short professional career.

Two of those tries came from kicks by Ben Jeffries, who will continue today to fill the gap left by Luke Gale, the half-back who has been ruled out for six to eight weeks by ankle ligament surgery.

The Bulls will be strengthened by a Super League debut from Manase Manuokafoa, the giant prop signed from Parramatta who damaged knee ligaments in a pre-season friendly. In stature – and, hopefully, in effectiveness – he will be something of a throwback to the massive Bradford packs that ruled the roost not so many seasons ago.

There are two potentially outstanding contests tomorrow, involving clubs who will be challenging for a top-four finish later this year.

The Catalan Dragons alerted everyone to the threat they carry with that unforgettable, last-minute victory at St Helens last Friday, and they complete a tough double by going to Wigan nine days later, with a trip to and from Perpignan sandwiched in between. It is a test of logistics as much as of ability.

Even as tough a marker as the Wigan coach, Shaun Wane, found little to complain about in their victory at Castleford last week, highlighted as it was by a quite brilliant hat-trick of tries from Sam Tomkins.

Wane has Paul Prescott and Ben Flower back from injuries to increase his forward options and he will have been telling his players this week that only their very best will be good enough.

The same applies to Huddersfield versus St Helens at the Galpharm. Saints will still be stinging after being burnt by the Dragons, while the Giants need to win to keep in touch with the top.

Hull KR will be without the suspended Constantine Mika at home to Widnes, who have completed their squad with the arrival from Australia of the prop Sione Kite. This game will come too soon to throw him straight into the fray, but their coach, Denis Betts, was impressed by Widnes's attitude against Leeds last week, even though they finished well beaten.

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