Rugby League: Record gate expected as Bulls seek rousing finale

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The Independent Online
BRADFORD ARE increasingly confident of celebrating their status as leaders of the JJB Super League with a record crowd for the competition tonight, writes Dave Hadfield.

The Bulls, already assured of finishing first as they go into the play- offs, entertain Leeds, who attracted the present record of 21,666 for the reverse fixture in June.

With an unbeaten home record for the season at stake, Bradford believe they can top that, although it is Leeds who have something tangible to play for, as they can go above St Helens and into second place.

Leeds have a stronger side available than the one that beat Wigan a week ago, with Adrian Morley and Anthony Farrell returning after suspension.

They both come into the starting line-up, with Andy Hay dropping to the bench and young Andy Speak starting ahead of Lee Jackson in place of the still-banned Terry Newton.

"Having to sit in the stands last week will have been a great motivator," said the Leeds coach, Graham Murray, of his returning forwards. "Both players will have had time to think and I'm sure that they are good enough to bounce back."

Bradford will be at full strength, apart from Mike Forshaw - and even he is now expected to be fit in time for the Grand Final on 9 October, if the Bulls progress that far.

Forshaw was thought to be out for the season when he damaged a leg in the victory at Hull last week, but his injury is not as bad as at first feared. He has fractured a bone at the base of his fibula but, with intensive rehabilitation, should be fit within a month.

Jon Wells, the winger who has played his part in Castleford's recent surge into the top five, is to play for England in The Independent-sponsored Student Rugby League World Cup, subject to his commitments with his club in the Super League play-offs.

Wells, a student at Leeds University, has been included in England's provisional squad for the tournament, which starts on 3 October, the same day as the final qualifying match that leads to the Old Trafford Grand Final.

One other Super League player is already earmarked to play for England in the competition - the Huddersfield full-back, Mark Sibson, who is on loan from Bramley as the Giants try to avoid relegation from Super League.

Ireland have named players of note in their squad. Apart from Gateshead's Brian Carney, they have included the former Swinton, Leigh and Oldham utility back, Paul Topping, and Liam Bretherton, the Wigan back.

Canada have been included in Wales' group in the tournament after uncertainty over the arrival of Papua New Guinea. "We just haven't been able to contact PNG, so Canada have stepped in," the tournament organiser, Niel Wood, said.

"Mind you, I wouldn't rule out getting a phone call from the airport telling me that PNG have arrived anyway."