Rugby League: Forward-thinking Fox is relishing the hunt

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PETER FOX, of Bradford Northern, is not getting unduly excited about his side's new position as favourites for the First Division championship, writes Dave Hadfield. But the game's most experienced coach is seeing his pre-season prediction come true.

'I said at the very start that Wigan were more vulnerable this season than they have been for a very long time,' he said.

'It has to do with a change of coach and also with a change of personnel. We aren't even looking yet at the possibility of winning the title, but there is a tremendous incentive here for the club to do it.'

Bradford are now in the happy position where, if they split the points with Wigan in their two meetings in mid-April and win their other matches, they will become champions for the first time since 1981, when, during Fox's first reign at the club, they won their last seven matches to take the title.

Bradford tonight face Halifax, the side that ended any lingering championship hopes that Castleford entertained last week. 'They will be very tough, very physical,' Fox said. 'They knocked Castleford off last week and want to do the same to us.'

Fox has opted to play the versatile Paul Medley, primarily a second-row forward, on the wing and Richard Darkes continues at full-back in place of the suspended Dave Watson.

Warrington need to beat Widnes today if they are to maintain the significance of their visit to Wigan on Monday. Their Australian forwards, Craig Teitzel and Bob Jackson, have both been passed fit.

Wigan have Phil Clarke back at loose forward at St Helens after a two-month absence following knee surgery. Barrie-Jon Mather also makes his comeback in the centre, with Va'aiga Tuigamala ruled out by the recurrence of an ankle injury.

Saints, encouraged by memories of a 41-6 victory the last time they played Wigan at Knowsley Road, reshuffle their back division to compensate for the loss of Jonathan Griffiths with a back injury.

Tommy Martyn goes to scrum-half, Tea Ropati to stand-off and Alan Hunte to centre, with Mike Riley coming in on the wing.

There are vital matches at the foot of the table, too, notably at Salford, who could be dragged back into the relegation equation if they are beaten by Oldham.