Cummins eyeing Bulls reaction
Bradford Bulls coach Francis Cummins will be looking to his side to respond to the renewed challenge laid down by relegation rivals Wakefield Trinty Wildcats when they host St Helens in tomorrow's solitary First Utility Super League match.
The Wildcats have posted back-to-back away wins to open up an eight-point gap on the Bulls, who are still hoping to win back some or all of the six points they were docked for going into administration when their appeal is heard at the end of the month.
The two sides meet in a potential crunch clash at Odsal in three weeks' time but Cummins' men need to stay in touch with their rivals before then.
St Helens have won their last three meetings with Bradford but optimism has risen at the Provident Stadium on the back of successive wins over Catalan Dragons and Warrington Wolves and a hat-trick of victories would represent the Bulls' best run under their rookie coach.
Cummins has lost the services of full-back Brett Kearney for up to 10 weeks after he fractured a thumb in the win over the Wolves but Lee Gaskell, one of two former Saints in the Bradford team, had already made an effective switch from stand-off ahead of last Sunday's game.
"I have played full-back previously and I will continue to do so, if required, as it is a role I enjoy," Gaskell said.
Saints coach Nathan Brown was impressed by the performance of the 23-year-old against Warrington and believes he has discovered his best position.
"If Gaskell had not have played, Bradford would not have won," said Brown.
"He was clearly the most influential player on the field. He had a big day at full-back and that position seems to be agreeing with him."
Gaskell spent a decade at his hometown club after joining them as a 10-year-old and is excited at the prospect of facing his old team-mates.
"I cannot explain how much I am looking forward to this weekend," he said. "Playing against your former club is always something players relish."
The feeling is echoed by winger Jamie Foster, who was released by St Helens at the end of 2012 but is determined not to allow emotions to get the better of him.
"Lee Gaskell and I are former St Helens players but it's all about getting the two points and nothing else matters," Foster said.
"As big as the Saints game is, we've got to look at the bigger picture. It would be absolutely fantastic to beat them and make it a hat-trick of wins."
Bradford are boosted by the return from injury of front-rowers Chev Walker and Manase Manuokafoa, who is set to be reunited with former team-mate Antonio Kaufusi, while centre Luke George, who was a late withdrawal from the Warrington game, is also in contention.
St Helens recall skipper Paul Wellens, who will draw level with Leeds Rhinos skipper Kevin Sinfield on a record 417 Super League appearances.