Long returns after ban for betting

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The Independent Online

Sean Long can expect a warm welcome back to the game tonight at Odsal, the ground on which all his troubles began.

Long has completed a three-month suspension for backing his club, St Helens, to lose on their last visit to Bradford and he admits that he expects both players and supporters to remind him of the circumstances of his absence.

"I used to get plenty of stick from the fans there even before I was banned," Long said yesterday. "I've just got to take it on the chin, but once you get on the pitch and make a tackle you don't even hear it any more."

Brian Noble, the Bradford coach, who will be assessing Long's form with his Great Britain hat on, has warned his players to be wary of the return of the scrum-half. "He will be raring to go after his lay-off and we will have to watch him carefully," Noble said.

Only victory will give Saints a chance of a home game against Wigan in the first round of the play-offs next weekend, but Long will miss some familiar faces, with Paul Sculthorpe, Keiron Cunningham and Jason Hooper all left out.

The Bulls' Lesley Vainikolo needs three tries to edge ahead of Danny McGuire as Super League's leading try-scorer. McGuire will miss Leeds' game at home to London with a dead-leg. The hosts will be presented with the League Leaders' Shield tonight.

David Furner, their Australian forward, who will return from a knee injury, is to retire after the play-offs to take up a job on the Canberra Raiders' coaching staff.

In this evening's other match, Warrington's Mike Forshaw will play his last game before retirement at his home- town club, Wigan.

Hull have confirmed that neither Richard Horne nor Paul King will play again this year through injury, ruling them out of Great Britain's squad for the Tri-Nations.

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