Saints' Goulding returns a new man

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Bobbie Goulding returns to St Helens' team in Paris tonight after a six-match absence, his appetite for his job sharpened by frustration and bitterness, writes Dave Hadfield.

Goulding has missed Saints' first three games of the Super League season, plus the latter stages of their progress to Wembley, because of his suspension for a high tackle in the Challenge Cup victory over Wigan in February.

"It's been the longest eight weeks of my life," Goulding said. "I'm buzzing. I'm so eager to get going that I feel like a new person."

The new person, however, is still furious about the treatment meted out to the old one. "I'm very, very bitter about what was done to me," he said of his sending-off by Russell Smith and his original eight-match ban, subsequently reduced to six.

"I've seen far worse tackles in matches refereed by the same man and players haven't even been sent off."

Goulding's complaint about the lack of consistency from referees is as old as the hills. The new element in his latest suspension is how well Saints have managed without him.

The 18-year-old deputy scrum-half, Lee Briers, can reflect on a job well done as he steps aside for Goulding. St Helens have won every match with him at the helm.

"I can't take anything away from him at all," Goulding said. "It's a learning curve for him, just like it was for me under Andy Gregory at Wigan and for him under Reg Bowden at Widnes before that."

Goulding has been irritated by the suggestion that he feels threatened by Saints' success in his absence. "I've never said we were a one man team, so anybody saying the last few weeks have shown that we're not isn't telling me anything I don't know."

The pick of tomorrow's matches pits two teams up at the top of Super League with Saints, when the London Broncos go to Bradford, whose usual forward strength is undermined by the absence of the injured Jeremy Donougher and Warren Jowitt as well as Brian McDermott's suspension - which will be the subject of an appeal next week.

Mick Morgan, temporarily in control of Castleford following the departure of John Joyner, plays the Australian, Adrian Vowles, at scrum-half instead of the youngster Danny Orr at Sheffield.