Rugby League: Platt returns for Wigan's trophy hunt

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The Independent Online
ANDY PLATT will return for Wigan in this afternoon's Regal Trophy final against Bradford Northern at Elland Road, despite a broken bone in his hand. Platt has been out since suffering the fracture at St Helens on Boxing Day and the medical advice is to stay out of the firing line today.

'If it was any match other than a cup final, I probably wouldn't play,' he said. 'The fracture is still there, but it was left up to me. I have movement and I'm hopeful that it won't be too painful.'

The return of Platt, at the expense of Ian Gildart, is a boost for Wigan at the end of a week in which their preparations have been interrupted by the row over which, if any, of their players will be going to Sydney for the World Sevens in two weeks' time. 'It has been a bit of an upset to our plans,' Platt said. 'The feeling after the sevens last season was never again, but it seems we're being penalised again for our success.'

Even with Ian Lucas injured and Kelvin Skerrett suspended, a Wigan pack, spearheaded by Platt and Neil Cowie, will be favoured today to provide the power to continue that success.

Bradford will be without Jon Hamer, with Roy Powell moving to prop and Paul Medley coming into the second row. 'Powell will play his normal game and Medley gives us a more attacking player as opposed to Hamer's defensive qualities,' Peter Fox, the Northern coach, said.

His hooker, Brian Noble, faces a fitness test on the shoulder he dislocated in the semi-final victory over Castleford. Fox is hopeful he will play, but, if not, he has a capable deputy in the New Zealander Trevor Clark. Deryck Fox, rested against Leigh to protect a sore groin last week, will definitely play.

The two heavy defeats by Wigan at the end of last season - 71-10 in the Challenge Cup semi-final and 50-8 in the league - have not figured in either side's build-up for this match. 'We are a different team now, with a lot of different players, a different style and a different psychology,' Fox said, while Platt describes them as 'much more organised'.

All that has been demonstrably true this season. Bradford have, at their best, played some expansive, innovative rugby. The quality and experience of the ball-players, Fox and Heron, have been crucial ingredients, but the element that could confuse Wigan today is the unpredictable contribution of Dave Watson. Although listed at full-back, Watson could crop up anywhere on the pitch and can be one of the hardest players in the game to stop.

But, even with him and the reconstructed Bradford at their peak, it is hard to see Wigan failing to capture their second cup of the season and their sixth Regal Trophy in as many finals.

Bradford Northern (probable): Watson; Marchant, McGowan, Shelford, Simpson; Summers, Fox; Hobbs, Noble, Powell, Medley, Fairbank, Heron. Substitutes: Anderson or Mumby, Clark.

Wigan: Hampson; Robinson, Bell, Farrar, Offiah; Botica, Edwards; Cowie, Dermott, Platt, Betts, McGinty, Clarke. Substitutes: Lydon, Panapa.

Referee: J Holdsworth (Kippax).

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