Johnson has opportunity to make Wigan pay

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The Independent Online

Paul Johnson will play his first Super League match for Bradford tonight - against the Wigan team for whom he battled in vain against Bradford in last season's Grand Final.

Johnson was a victim of Wigan's winter cost-cutting, but was snapped up immediately by the Bulls, showing outstanding form in the centres for them in last Friday's World Club Challenge triumph over Penrith.

Another big Bradford signing, Toa Kohe-Love, is confined to the bench at Odsal this evening, as the Bulls' coach, Brian Noble, is delighted with Johnson's start after a difficult last couple of seasons at Wigan where he was plagued by injury and lost his brother in a car crash.

"He has put adversity behind him in respect of injuries and personal tragedies. I think that he's looking forward to playing rugby league and having a smile on his face," Noble said.

"He was outstanding last Friday and showed what a good athlete he is, but Toa is fully fit now and I know that he has got some special things for us as well."

With Logan Swann ruled out by a knee strain, Jamie Langley comes into the starting team against a Wigan side which has four players out injured as well as the four who left this summer.

Against that, only Danny Orr has been brought in and, although Kris Radlinski has been made captain in the absence of Andy Farrell and Adrian Lam, it is the former Castleford stand-off who must provide the midfield direction.

He will be in direct opposition to Leon Pryce, who was outstanding in the role against Penrith and could be Orr's rival for a Test place at No 6.

In tonight's other game, the St Helens' coach, Ian Millward, hopes that Ade Gardner will recover from an ankle injury in time to play on the wing against Hull.

Their opponents, so unlucky with long-term injuries last time, are starting this campaign with more of the same. They have eight players missing, including their captain, Jason Smith, and they will be looking to the New Zealand Test hooker Richard Swain to direct them around the pitch in his first competitive appearance for the club.

Super League clubs have broken up after a two-day meeting which was described as "constructive". Clubs - apart from Bradford, who declined to attend - discussed the potentially divisive topic of lowering the salary cap, but no decisions were made.

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