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Bulls v Crusaders: Teams
At Murrayfield, Saturday May 1, KO: 1pm, live on Sky Sports 4/HD4
Murrayfield Magic, live on Sky Sports HD4 and 4 and online with Sky Player from 1pm on Saturday.
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.
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First Utility Super League Table
|5||Hull K R||0||0|
|7||Salford Red Devils||0||0|
|First Utility Super League|
|Thursday 5th February|
|20:00||Widnes vs Wigan|
|Friday 6th February|
|20:00||St Helens vs Catalans Dragons|
|Saturday 7th February|
|15:00||Warrington vs Salford|
|Sunday 8th February|
|15:00||Huddersfield vs Hull|
|15:00||Hull K R vs Leeds|
|15:30||Castleford vs Wakefield|
|Thursday 12th February|
|20:00||Salford vs St Helens|
|Friday 13th February|
|20:00||Hull vs Warrington|
|20:00||Leeds vs Widnes|
|20:00||Wigan vs Huddersfield|
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