Noble expecting positive welcome on return to Odsal

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The Independent Online

Brian Noble today goes back to Odsal for the first time since leaving Bradford. The Wigan coach leftthe club, at which he had spent three decades, last season amid controversy but says he is looking forward to his return.

"I've been back a couple of times as a spectator," he said. "I'm excited about it, but I'm sure there'll be an emotional element as well. I just hope I go into the right dug-out."

Noble, who steered Wigan clear of relegation after his mid-season switch, says he is expecting no hostility, despite having raided the Bulls for Stuart Fielden and Michael Withers, both of whom also make their first returns to Odsal.

"I have nothing but fond memories of my 30 years at the club," said Noble. "I probably didn't leave the way I wanted to but that was out of my hands. There are some good people and I appreciate what they did for me. I don't regret leaving Bradford. I've got some good friends there and most of my family are still season-ticket holders there. They'll be the ones throwing the bread buns!"

Noble needs a convincing performance from his side after defeat by Warrington and a close win over the Catalan Dragons in their first two matches.

Bradford have looked better than many expected and have three forwards - Andy Lynch, Chris McKenna and Ian Henderson - back in contention after injuries. If Lynch plays, it will be his first game since breaking his leg last season.

The Bulls could also include Nathan McAvoy, who spent the latter stages of last season aiding Wigan's survival effort. Noble wanted to keep him on the books this season, but instead he was allowed to leave and rejoin Bradford.

In today's other match, Ashley Gibson returns to the Leeds side for the trip to Perpignan to play the Dragons. The versatile young back suffered ankle damage two weeks ago.

There has been less cheerful news this week of the prop, Nick Scruton, who will be out for four months with a stress fracture of the foot. Jordan Tansey will stand in for Matt Diskin at hooker.

The Rhinos' coach, Tony Smith, has called up Ian Kirke, Carl Ablett and Danny Williams. The French side are still without Stacey Jones and Jamal Fakir, but have impressed so far this season, despite that late defeat by Wigan.

The loss of Jones for the first two months of the season has been softened by the early form of Casey McGuire, who could have been playing for the Brisbane Broncos in last night's World Club Challenge had he not decided to try his hand in Super League.