Bulls v Crusaders: Teams
At Murrayfield, Saturday May 1, KO: 1pm, live on Sky Sports 4/HD4
Last Updated: 01/05/10 8:13am
McNamara: gambled on youth
Steve McNamara admits his selection of Bradford Bulls' youngest ever second-row partnership in Super League was a "calculated gamble" - but it could be a portent for his reign as England coach.
James Donaldson, just 18, and 20-year-old Elliott Whitehead were thrust together for last Sunday's clash with Hull KR and came up trumps as the Bulls came up with their biggest League win for more than two years.
The bold selection of the two young Englishmen ought to provide hope and encouragement for a host of budding Super League stars aiming to catch the eye of the new national coach, although McNamara confesses his hand was forced to some extent by the tight finances at Odsal.
"We had to make some decisions because of the budget we had," he said. "We took a calculated gamble in that we thought those two players in particular would be able to play at Super League level and at a reasonable standard for us."
Whitehead, a product of amateur rugby league in Bradford, did not make his Super League debut until last June but is expected to start for the 13th successive match when the Bulls open the Magic Weekend programme against Crusaders at Murrayfield on Saturday.
Donaldson, who hails from Cumbria, has played in 17 of Bradford's last 23 matches but only started his first game last Sunday when Jamie Langley failed a late fitness test on a quadricep strain.
With Langley failing to recover from his injury, McNamara is set to stick with the young guns against the Wrexham club.
"We lost Jamie in the final practice session so we had an 18-year-old and a 20-year-old in the back row," said McNamara. "It probably would have fazed others but not those two.
"Nothing much worries Elliott and that's one of his strengths. His form has been improving throughout the season, culminating in probably his best performance for the Bulls.
"If he continues to keep improving the way he has, he'll certainly be a regular in Super League for a number of years. Physically there is a lot of development in him.
"They're both very competitive. They are still young boys and there are a lot of rough edges but there's plenty to work on."
Crusaders, coached by former Bradford boss Brian Noble, will give a debut to Australian utility back Jarrod Sammut, who flew into the country on Thursday and trained with his new team-mates for the first time.
The Bradford-Crusaders match will kick off a full Super League programme over two days at Murrayfield.
Castleford play Catalans in Sunday's opener, followed by leaders Wigan's duel with Huddersfield and Hull KR's clash with St Helens.
Bulls squad: Crookes, Halley, L'Estrange, Hall, Reardon, Scruton, Sheriffe, Lynch, Kopczak, Sykes, Menzies, Kearney, Godwin, Nero, Platt, Whitehead, Worrincy, Orford, Donaldson.
Crusaders squad: Thomas, Youngquest, Mellars, Witt, Sammut, O'Hara, Withers, Bryant, Hauraki, Chan, Trimarchi, Dyer, Winterstien, Peek, Thackray, Flower, Lupton, Schifcofske, Hanbury.
First Utility Super League
Wed 1st Jul
Wakefield Wildcats26 - 16Hull FC
Thu 2nd Jul
Warrington Wolves17 - 6Wigan Warriors
Fri 3rd Jul
Leeds Rhinos46 - 18St Helens
Sun 5th Jul
Huddersfield Giants32 - 14Hull K R
Hull FC31 - 24Wakefield Wildcats
Salford Red Devils18 - 14Catalans Dragons
Castleford Tigers34 - 20Widnes Vikings
Thu 9th Jul
Wigan WarriorsvsLeeds Rhinos
Fri 10th Jul
St HelensvsHuddersfield Giants
Sun 12th Jul
Hull FC0 - 0Castleford Tigers
Salford Red Devils0 - 0Hull K R
Wakefield Wildcats0 - 0Warrington Wolves
Widnes Vikings0 - 0Catalans Dragons
Thu 16th Jul
Warrington WolvesvsSt Helens
Fri 17th Jul
Hull K RvsHull FC
Leeds Rhinos0 - 0Salford Red Devils
Wigan Warriors0 - 0Widnes Vikings
Sat 18th Jul
Catalans DragonsvsHuddersfield Giants
Sun 19th Jul
Wakefield Wildcats0 - 0Castleford Tigers
Thu 23rd Jul
Hull FCvsWigan Warriors
Fri 24th Jul
St Helens0 - 0Hull K R
Sun 26th Jul
Huddersfield Giants0 - 0Wakefield Wildcats
Leeds Rhinos0 - 0Catalans Dragons
Widnes Vikings0 - 0Salford Red Devils
Castleford Tigers0 - 0Warrington Wolves