Long's return boosts Saints before play-offs

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The Independent Online

Sean Long is set to return to St Helens' team at Bradford on Friday after a three-month ban for betting on a below-strength Saints side to lose at Odsal on Easter Monday. He will be included to give him some match practice before the Super League play-offs.

Sean Long is set to return to St Helens' team at Bradford on Friday after a three-month ban for betting on a below-strength Saints side to lose at Odsal on Easter Monday. He will be included to give him some match practice before the Super League play-offs.

Ian Millward, his coach, said yesterday: "I'll definitely start with him at half-back and see how it goes. You'd like to say you haven't missed him, so it doesn't reflect on other players, but I think we've missed him an awful lot."

Long has found the last month the hardest. "I've always set this in my mind as the weekend I would be back and the last few weeks have been the worst, when you know you're getting closer," he said. "I don't think one person makes a team, but I'm sure I can help."

The question of who he will link up with remains intriguingly poised, with St Helens' leading lights Paul Sculthorpe, Keiron Cunningham and Jason Hooper all in line to be rested in preparation for next week's play-off against Wigan.

But Long, who still describes his Easter wager as "just another bet to me," will not be exploiting any inside knowledge of the line-up. "I definitely won't be having a bet," he said.

Julian O'Neill will be missing from the Widnes front row at Hull on Saturday, when they could be relegated from Super League. O'Neill has fractured his eye-socket and is likely to be replaced by Andy Hobson.

Andy Coley will be able to play in Salford's last match of the season at Huddersfield on Sunday, after being found guilty of striking but avoiding a suspension.

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